Plugging a Hole in the Heart?

by Expat Life

Hospital’s cardiac unit combines technology and expertise to combat heart problems

Two months ago, Suchanya lnthrasith, a patient with Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO), commonly known as a ‘hole in the heart’, gave an interview with a special news team to provide further insights into her past medical condition.

Dr. Nivit Kalra Cardiology Specialist

Suchanya revealed that earlier this year, she was suffering from constant dizziness and headaches on a daily basis. Whilst visiting the doctor, she was informed that extra calcium deposits in her inner ear were the cause of her symptoms. After being prescribed some injections, she returned home, and her condition improved to a certain extent, only for a few days. Afterwards, Suchanya could no longer carry out her daily routine, as the dizziness and headaches were so severe, and so she approached Sukumvit Hospital for help.

Dr. Wasan Udayachalerm Interventional Cardiologist

After initial tests by the hospital’s Ear, Nose and Throat Unit, she was placed under the care of Dr. Nivit Kalra, a cardiology specialist. It was only after the patient underwent a heart ultrasound that Dr. Nivit diagnosed her with Atrial Septal Aneurysm. To further investigate her health, the patient received a transesophageal echocardiogram, where a small apparatus was inserted into her throat reaching down close enough to provide a more precise image of her heart’s condition. A MRI scan followed, and concluded to a stroke diagnosis.

After all procedures were completed, it was confirmed that Suchanya did have a hole in her heart, the type that is known as a Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO). So what exactly is a hole in the heart? The medical definition of a PFO is a hole in the septum. This hole exists before birth, but usually closes shortly after you are born. PFO refers to the hole when it fails to close up naturally after a baby is born, which is what happened with Suchanya, as a blood clot in the brain was causing her dizziness, shortness of breath and severe headaches.Leading the team to treat Suchanya was none other than Dr .Wasan Udayachalerm, Sukumvit Hospital’s Director of Heart Centre and one of Thailand’s most prominent interventional cardiologists. Dr. Wasan used a procedure known as cardiac catheterisation, where a catheter (a long, thin, flexible and hollow tube) is slowly moved into the heart.

Unlike other approaches, the procedure is low risk, minimising the chance of the patient suffering a stroke or facing other complications. Without the need for open heart surgery, Suchanya only spent one day at the hospital and soon returned home to a pain free and normal life, where she would only be required to take one medication daily for a month, eat a balanced low salt diet and exercise regularly.

The catheter is inserted into a large vein through a small cut, made usually in the inner thigh (groin) area, and then advanced into the heart. A PFO closure device is then moved through the vein to the heart, and then specifically to the location of the heart wall defect. Once it is in the correct location, the PFO closure device is formed so that it straddles each side of the hole. The device will remain in the heart permanently to stop the abnormal blood flow between the two atrial chambers. The catheter is then removed and the procedure is complete.


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