First-in-Canada heart procedure without surgery


Doctors in Toronto has performed first-in-Canada percutaneous coronary intervention to unblock arteries of a patient.

The non-surgical procedure carried out on 55-year-old Robert Barton with the help of ‘something’ called TandemHeart at Peter Munk Cardiac Centre.

“Barton’s life recently took a 180-degree turn. He has a lot more energy, and he’s able to do simple activities again like grocery shopping and visiting friends,” the CBC summed it up.

“It was extremely humbling because you are the first guy to do this,” said Barton.

“And in my thinking, it was, boy, this is opening the door for a lot of people,” he added.

He thanked the Toronto medical team that pulled off the Canadian first procedure recently.

In February, Barton was preparing for a planned kidney transplant. But shortly before his surgery, the doctors realised his heart had serious blockages and couldn’t handle such an operation.

Cardiologist Dr Christopher Overgaard said Barton’s heart was too weak for open-heart surgery. So, the doctor asked if he’d be interested in trying something new.

The TandemHeart takes over for a weak heart when doctors are working on it like fixing a car engine while it’s running, Overgaard said.

“It acts as an artificial pump, sucking the blood out of the body – energising it, then pumping it back in,” said Alan Daly, the Canadian manager for TandemHeart.

“That allowed the rest of the body to get all the perfusion it needed while we’re working away on the chamber that is supposed to do that,” Overgaard said, CBCnews reported.

“We’re essentially fixing a car engine while it’s running.”

Overgaard was part of a team of doctors and nurses at Toronto General Hospital’s Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, who implanted the TandemHeart on March 1 for Barton’s angioplasty.

The procedure took about three hours, and Overgaard said: “the room was packed with medical staff and observers.”

“It was very exciting. It was a little nerve-racking for all of us. Although we had used the device in models, we had never done it live in a real person,” Overgaard said.

Barton was awake during the whole process, and it all happened without surgery though for a few times his heart had flat-lined.

“When I felt that flatline, it was kind of a fuzzy head,” he said.

But the TandemHeart did its job and all Barton felt was a bit of light-headedness.

“That was a weird feeling, but a phenomenal feeling that it did what it said it was going to do.”

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