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3-year-old Russian boy recovers after Berlin Heart Implantation in Chennai

CHENNAI: A 3-year-old Russian boy underwent an artificial heart implant in the city recently. The ventricular assistive device would help him lead a near-normal life until he can receive a heart transplant.

The procedure was done in MGM Healthcare on May 25, in the midst of COVID-induced lockdown.

K.R. Balakrishnan, chairman and director of Cardiac Sciences at the hospital, said it was a challenging procedure for the medical team.

Lev Fedrenko exhibited generalised swelling since six months of life and did not gain weight. Doctors in Russia diagnosed his condition as restrictive cardiomyopathy, wherein the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles) are unable to expand and receive blood. The family reached out to many hospitals outside Russia until they were referred to Dr. Balakrishnan.

"The child came to us almost a year ago and was on medical treatment. Unfortunately two months ago he suffered two cardiac arrests and we had to revive him by cardiac massage for almost 7-8 minutes," he recalled. It was decided to implant a paediatric biventricular pump. The ventricular assistive device consists of two artificial heart pumps to support the right and the left side of the heart.

At the time of the surgery Lev weighed only 10 kg, making the procedure that much complex. A team led by Dr. Balakrishnan, Suresh Rao K.G., co-director of the Institute of Heart and Lung Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory and head of cardiac anaesthesia, besides surgeons V. Srinath and S. Ganapathy, performed the procedure, which lasted almost seven hours. The team received engineering support from the United Kingdom and Germany.

The team had to maintain the mandatory protective equipment due to COVID-19. With travel restrictions the doctors had to rely on teleconference support from expert teams in other countries.

Dr. Balakrishnan said the procedure was done for the first time in South East Asia, West Asia and Africa.

"This was a huge challenge given the prevailing circumstances. Berlin Heart will support the circulation till the heart recovers or he gets a transplant," he said, adding that the child had been shifted out of the intensive care unit as he had done well.

Dr. Suresh Rao said the implant offered a chance to keep a patient's condition stable until heart transplant is possible.

Lev will be on anticoagulants and the parents would be educated on monitoring carefully his medication as the commonest risk in such children is stroke or infection, the doctors said.

Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami praised the medical team and the hospital for taking up a challenging case and showcasing the State's capabilities in healthcare to the world. He congratulated the medical team and the hospital on its achievement and said it was Amma's (former CM Jayalalithaa) aim to provide quality healthcare to all. He said the state was setting an example in provision of healthcare. "Even now we are taking the right action and utmost effort to tackle COVID infection. Tamil Nadu accounts for the lowest death count due to the infection," he said.


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