‘Hole in the heart’ surgery performed at Shawfair Park hospital

Following a short rest in hospital he returned home and is doing very well. Treatment was carried out which successfully and permanently closes the defect. The condition is diagnosed with an echocardiogram which also identifies the location of the hole.1 An implant was guided up to the affected area through a small incision in the groin. This implant was then released, effectively closing the hole. Tissue will eventually grow into and around the implant’s fabric and metal framework, creating a permanent seal.’ This minimally invasive technique offers several advantages over current treatment options of either medications (such as anticoagulants) or open-heart surgery. The new technique reduces risks associated with open surgery and prevents an on-going need for medications.2 The ‘hole’, (in the septum between the left and right atria) is present in all individuals before birth but for most people it closes shortly after birth. For about 25% of the population3 the opening doesn’t close. For most it goes undetected, mainly due to the minimal symptoms caused by the condition. However, for some they may notice symptoms such as:

• Tiredness / lethargy
• Arrythmias
• Shortness of breath
• Frequent respiratory infections, including pneumonia
• Usually a heart murmur

The condition isn’t always serious but can present higher risks in some patient groups. For instance, in older patients there is increasing likelihood of irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure and heart failure. Recent studies have also shown that the risk of suffering an embolic stroke may be increased for people who are affected with this abnormality 4. For divers there is also preliminary research to suggest they could be at increased risk. The reason is that depending on the depth and duration of a dive, some divers will produce air bubbles in their venous system which would usually be filtered out through the lungs. It is thought that if a hole in the heart is present these divers may pass air bubbles directly from one atria to the other where they could cause symptoms. It is important to remember that as of yet, there is no direct evidence. 5

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002102/

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2111268/

3,4,5 http://www.sjmprofessional.co.uk

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