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Post: A “medical breakthrough” that could make heart surgery safer!

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Researchers have developed a tiny balloon that could help doctors identify heart surgery patients who may be at risk of developing life-threatening complications.

A tubular balloon, measuring several centimeters in length, is placed in the chest at the end of bypass surgery and other major cardiac procedures.

Surgeons insert a thin wire into the chest with a deflated balloon at the end. Once inserted into the pericardial sac (the fibrous sac that contains the heart), the balloon is inflated.

The other end of the cable is connected to a monitor that measures pressure changes in the balloon. The idea is that monitoring this pressure over several days while the patient recovers in the hospital will provide an early warning of a potentially life-threatening condition called cardiac tamponade.

This occurs when the pericardial sac fills with blood or fluid that drains from blood vessels damaged during heart surgery.

When the sac fills with fluid, it puts pressure on the heart, preventing it from beating normally and greatly reducing blood flow to other vital organs.

The condition usually develops within 48 hours after a major cardiac procedure. It is considered a medical emergency because, if not treated quickly, it can lead to fatal cardiac arrest.

Although it is a rare condition, it accounts for 30% of deaths from complications of heart surgery.
The solution could be an experimental balloon developed by cardiac surgeon Hazem Faloh of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

In addition to the balloon, a second wire with a special sensor on the tip, called a Doppler probe, is inserted into the same area.

This then bounces high-frequency sound waves back to the red blood cells in the heart to get a picture of how much blood is flowing through the arteries.

It also acts as an alert, signaling paramedics when blood flow has stopped, indicating there may be a problem.

Both devices, the balloon and the tube, are easily removed once the patient is clean, usually after 48 hours.

Patients monitored with this new device must stay in the hospital and may stay longer than usual.

However, if it means that cardiac tamponade can be recognized early and treated when it is, it would be a huge step forward.

A sudden drop in blood pressure is currently one of the warning signs of heart block.

If doctors spot it quickly, they can treat it by draining excess fluid.

However, the condition can easily be confused with other conditions such as congestive heart failure, in which the heart does not pump properly.

If not caught early, cardiac tamponade usually leads to emergency surgery to relieve pressure on the heart, a procedure with a mortality rate of up to 70%.

The Tamponade Device for Cardiac Output Monitoring and Diagnosis of Tamponade (PerDeCT) is currently a prototype.

However, its developers have recently won a £500,000 grant from Innovate UK, the public body that funds pioneering technologies, and it will be trialled at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital next year.

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Source: Al Ittihad

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