30 Aug 2008

Revolutionary heart surgery goes well

10:00 pm on 30 August 2008

The success of five revolutionary heart valve procedures carried out at Waikato Hospital on Thursday is likely to strengthen the case for the operations to be done on a regular basis.

In all, 12 operations involving implanting new aortic valves are being funded privately in a pilot programme before the case is made for public funding.

On Thursday, two people successfully underwent the surgery - the first to be carried out in a New Zealand public hospital. The procedure is an alternative to open-heart surgery and is done only on the weakest patients.

Three more were carried out on Friday.

The patients both suffered from aortic stenosis - a condition in which the main outflow valve from the heart thickens and does not open fully. The heart is placed under strain and it causes breathlessness, chest pain, blackouts and heart failure.

Waikato's head of cardiology Dr Gerry Devlin says 50 to 60 people in the region would benefit from the procedure and there could be more who have not even been assessed.

Grateful for surgery

The first patient to have the surgery was Ramona Johnson, 79.

Before his surgery, Fraser Wilson said he was "over the moon" to be given the chance.

The 60-year-old from Gisborne says he is always breathless and cannot walk farther than about 25 metres without having to stop and catch his breath.

He hopes the operation will not only extend his life, but enable him to return to work as an electrician.