• A new way to heal broken hearts

    Epworth Richmond in Melbourne is using cutting-edge technology to help heal broken hearts.

    A 27-year-old patient was recently treated using an intracardiac echo catheter, a new type of ultrasound equipment.

    The man had a hole in the upper chamber of his heart, known as a patent foraman ovale.

    Everyone is born with this hole, but it usually closes naturally shortly after birth.

    The new catheter allows doctors to 'see' inside the heart using ultrasound while performing cardiac surgery.

    Sanjee de Silva, Nurse Unit Manager of the La Trobe Financial Cardiac Catheterisation Unit at Epworth Richmond, said the new treatment was life-changing for a patient of such a young age with heart issues.

    “We had two patients on our first day using this new technology,” he said.

    “The initial case was a 27-year-old man who had a hole in the heart that needed sealing.

    “We used the catheter to locate the exact location of the hole and determine its size, enabling us to deploy the best closure devices from several available options.”

    Associate Professor Tony Walton performed the first procedure using the intracardiac echo catheter

    Previously, the Epworth specialists would have used ultrasound, trans-oesophageal echocardiogram, or fluoroscopic images to examine the issue.

    “This new catheter enables a sophisticated and exact view so we can make an accurate clinical judgement. Until now, nothing like this has existed,” Mr de Silva said.

    Associate Professor Tony Walton performed the procedure, the first using an intracardiac echo catheter at a private hospital in Victoria.

    “The patient has done very well and is very grateful,” the cardiologist said.

    “In future, we hope this technology will be more widely available, but it will require funding of the catheter and training of the medical staff.”

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