June 18, 2008

Hi-Tech Heart Surgeons Spare Jack, 17, From Another Ordeal

TEENAGER Jack Burd was only five months old when he underwent his first heart operation and has since endured open heart surgery a remarkable three times.

But now he has become the first patient in Yorkshire to have a new heart valve fitted using a state-of-the-art procedure which threads the valve into his leg and then through an artery to his heart.

The technique is highly complex but offers significant benefits to patients who would otherwise face the risks of major surgery and the long recovery afterwards.

Specialists believe it offers significant advantages for patients amid speculation it could one day overtake open heart surgery, which was first carried out in the 1950s.

Jack, now 17, from Barnsley, was born with a heart defect diagnosed when he was a baby.

He had his first operation aged five months at the former Killingbeck Hospital in Leeds and open heart surgery followed when he was three, seven and 14. He has also had two pacemakers fitted.

Doctors monitoring him at Leeds General Infirmary told him his heart valve was becoming worn out and he needed a new one to regulate the flow of blood from the heart to the lungs.

This would normally be stitched in by surgeons after opening up his chest but instead he was offered a chance to undergo the new operation, which was pioneered worldwide on the NHS by top doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London in 2000. It has been refined in the years since, although it has been performed at only a handful of specialist centres in the UK.

His mother Victoria said previously surgery took all day. Jack needed initial treatment in intensive care and was in hospital for more than a week, with weeks more to recover and time away from his studies.

But using the new keyhole technique he had returned home the following day.

John Thomson, consultant in congenital cardiology at the Infirmary, who carried out the procedure, said the valve was threaded from Jack's thigh through an artery to his heart.

Using a monitor, he was able to manoeuvre it into position in an operation lasting two-and-a-half hours, which he described as "pretty tricky".

Without surgery, patients became progressively more tired and lacking in energy as their heart failed to function properly.

"It's a big advance for some people and he is the first to have it done in Yorkshire," he said.

"The difference is 10 days in hospital with a lot of pain versus something which can be done as keyhole surgery and which allows the patient to be home the next day."

Jack, who is studying business at college, said: "I was just happy to have it done.

"I didn't want to go through another open heart operation with all the risks.

"After this one I've been able to do a lot more than I could before and be more active with my friends and just feel much better than I did.

"All the nurses were very kind and the doctors have been very good.

"I'm kind of used to operations and wasn't too nervous - it wasn't as bad as when I went in for open heart surgery."

His mother added: "We thought the next stage was going to be open heart surgery but when they put this to us it sounded a lot better.

"He has been through a lot really but he's happy-go-lucky; he's not really complained and just gets on with it, although it hasn't got any easier for him."

Dr Thomson said a similar procedure was being developed for elderly patients with aortic heart valve failure.

He added: "This technology is going to explode over the next few years or so - it's going to get bigger and bigger."

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