Four hundred heart specialists from around the world watched
history being made in Cape Town as a 14-year-old Namibian boy underwent the
implantation of an artificial valve via a vein without any need to cut open his
The innovative procedure was one of many which were watched
during the intervention sessions of the 6th World Congress on Paediatric
Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery being held in Cape Town. Delegates were able to
watch procedures which were taking place at hospitals in South Africa and
Europe which were transmitted live into an auditorium.
The operation, which was hailed as a big success, was
performed by South African Dr Harold Pribut and Belgian Dr Marc Gewillig.
Why the operation was
John Lawrenson, one of the scientific organisers of the
conference explained that the boy was born with pulmonary atresia, a condition
where his heart was not connected to his pulmonary arteries.
“When he was born, he was extremely blue, as there was no
blood going to the lungs to pick up oxygen. He had surgery as a younger child,
using a homograph. However this had become narrowed over time and started
leaking. “Because the scar tissue that forms inside can sometimes defeat even
the best surgeons in terms of redo operations, this homograph was replaced by a
“So a stent has been compressed, but inside this scaffolding
was sewn a valve which came from a cow’s jugular vein,” Lawrenson said.
Explaining further, he said: “Cows have big veins. Inside
the vein are valves. The vein has been stitched inside the stent, fitted onto a
balloon and delivered into the hart. The balloon was opened up and the valve
stent was placed. So the stent is now open, filling the narrowing and inside
the stent is this valve that is now working.
“They have got over the narrowing and have a valve that is
not leaking at all.
Lawrenson said the procedure had been done around the world
for about ten years. The valve, known as the Melody Valve had become available
“The problem is it is very expensive. Lawrenson said the
Cape Town operation had gone “absolutely fine”.
A first in SA
The interventional cases had been a “remarkable” experience
This was the first time this had been done from a conference
in South Africa in terms of live paediatric cases.
“They are watching holes being closed inside the heart, they
have watched narrowings in the aorta being fixed, they are watching the
replacement of the aortic valve in an adult and they are going to watch the
creation of a hole between chambers to allow better mixing of blood.
“We have watched interventions from Milan, Frankfurt, Cape
Town and Johannesburg,” he said.
Thursday will see more local interventions when operations
are transmitted from both the Red Cross Hospital and Panorama.
Visit the 6th World Congress on Paediatric Cardiology and