Australian-first surgery a joy for cardiac patient

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In an Australian-first, Melbourne doctors are using a revolutionary type of heart clip to treat people suffering irregular heartbeat and potential stroke.

The procedure attaches a medical clip to an upper section of the heart and is said to reduce the need for patients to have open heart surgery.

Melbourne man Barry White was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation three years ago.

Atrial fibrillation is caused by fibrillation or fluttering of the top chambers of the heart.

Patients are at a high risk of developing blood clots, which lead to stroke.

“It’s a tightness of the chest, very sweaty, you feel quite nauseous at times,” Mr White said.

“The possibility of a clot getting to your brain is quite frightening.”

The 69-year-old is the first Australian to have undergone the innovative heart treatment option.

Specialists at Epworth HealthCare’s Eastern campus are using the surgical clip to seal part of the heart where clots form.

“One of the things that we’re trying to do with this operation is to try and remove or eliminate that part of the heart,” Epworth Eastern cardiac surgeon Dr Michael Yii said.

In Mr White’s case, surgeons firstly applied heat to disable the abnormal electrical connections that triggered his irregular heartbeat. A titanium clip was then clamped over a pouch at the top of Mr White’s heart, closing off an area where many blood clots develop.

While this is the first time the procedure has been carried out in Australia, it has a great track record overseas with at least an 85 per cent success rate.

“What we do know is that when you scan the patient three months after the operation, you virtually don’t see it anymore. It just disappears because the clip removes it all,” Dr Yii said.

Since the surgery, Mr White has halved his medication and his ticker troubles have stopped.

“Four weeks later after the operation, nothing at all. There’s been no indication of any flutter or any fibrillation of any sort, so it’s been terrific from that point of view,” Mr White said.

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