Doctors at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu, on Wednesday carried out the first successful corrective heart surgery for a heart disease called `Truncus Arteriosus’.
The condition called `Truncus Arteriosus,’ is described as an extreme rare cardiac condition where the heart has only one blood supplying vessel and is said to be the first of such a case in Nigeria.
The team of surgeons, led by an expatriate, Prof. William Novick, conducted the surgery to correct the dysfunctional heart of a 15-months-old baby.
The rare medical feat was witnessed by Enugu State Governor, Mr Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Novick, while briefing Governor Ugwuanyi, described the condition as an extreme rare cardiac condition and the first of such a case in Nigeria.
He explained thus:“We took our chances on the 15-month-old baby and it was successful.
“A normal heart has one vessel that leaves the right side and goes to the lungs and another vessel that leaves the left side of the heart and goes to the body.
“In Truncus Arteriosus, the patient does not have two defined vessels leaving the heart. He has one vessel. So, there is no separation between the lungs’ blood flow and the body blood flow.
“So the problem results in too much blood going to the lungs and not enough going to the body. The operation we did is a curative one to correct the defect.”
Dr Christopher Amah, UNTH Chief Medical Director, while briefing Governor Ugwuany after the surgery, said that the hospital had collaborated with the expatriate cardiac surgeons for many years.
According to him, the surgeons from the U.S., Canada and the UK joined hands with their Nigerian counterparts in UNTH to perform open heart surgeries on 25 Nigerian children who may have died prematurely, if help had not come through this exercise.
The CMD said: “Dr Novick was here in 2003 as the lead surgeon to perform similar surgeries on Nigerian children under the sponsorship of Kanu Nwankwo Heart Foundation and he is here to repeat this kindness for no payment.
“It may interest you to note that the first `Open Heart Surgery’ in black Africa was performed at UNTH on Feb. 1, 1974, by our indigenous staff, with the collaboration of a renowned heart surgeon, Prof. Magdi Yacoub.”
Amah noted that UNTH was a leading centre for open heart surgery, adding that no fewer than 95 of such surgeries had been done in the hospital from 2013 to date, with more than 90 per cent success.
Governor Ugwuanyi, in response, said that the state government would do its best to support children in dire need whose parents cannot help them.
He announced a donation of N5 million to assist children who were undergoing surgery and paid the hospital bills of indigent patients held back by the hospital management for their inability to pay their medical bills.