Warringal teams defuse ‘ticking time bomb’

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Cardiac surgeons at Melbourne’s Warringal Private Hospital showed the power of teamwork as they resolved a tricky situation to successfully operate on an elderly patient with an uncommon heart problem.

Govindasamy Arumugam had suffered multiple blackouts and then a heart attack while visiting family in Australia, having been unable to get back home to Malaysia due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

His daughter Shanthini Govindasamy, a local General Practitioner, described the 72-year-old as “a ticking time bomb” due to his condition.

The cardiologists at Warringal Private Hospital, based in the north-east suburb of Heidelberg, found that her father had dual complications.

As well as severe pulmonary hypertension, which affects blood flow to the lungs and right side of the heart, he also had a tight left main coronary artery stenosis – a relatively uncommon cause of heart blockage. 

This combination meant open-heart surgery was too risky for the patient, as was general anaesthetic – the surgeons had to keep him awake and pain-free during the procedure.

They formed two teams – one bypassed Mr Arumugam’s heart via the femoral artery in his leg, while the other inserted a stent into his heart’s left artery.

“Bypassing the heart via the leg and groin is technically more difficult and is not done often,” said Professor Jai Raman, a cardiothoracic surgeon involved in the procedure.

The complicated operation was a success – Mr Arumugam was able to go home 48 hours later.  

Read more: ‘Parachutes’ make heart surgery safer

Read more: Australia’s world-first COVID-19 heart study

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