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Nairobi doctors successfully perform rare heart surgery

The surgical process of a redo sternotomy is associated with a higher risk of complications than an initial sternotomy. [File, Standard]

Doctors at the Mediheal group of hospitals last week managed to successfully perform redo sternotomy, a six to eight-hour-long procedure which may involve repeat chest and heart surgery for patients with heart problems.

“The patient had a hole in the heart from birth, and this was corrected. But we recently noticed that his right side of the valve was leaking, so we had to reopen his chest and replace the pulmonary valve,” says Dr. Sumit Modi who was the lead cardiothoracic surgeon in the procedure.

According to Dr. Sumit, the surgical process of a redo sternotomy is associated with a higher risk of complications than an initial sternotomy and therefore, requires prior planning and expertise to minimize the potential loss of a patient.

“The breast bone in this case is very close to the heart, so when we open the chest it is very easy to injure the heart and the blood vessels around it...it took a lot of expertise and meticulous planning to achieve the success,” he says.

The 26-year-old patient, Eric Maina, who underwent the surgery on 22nd February this year says he is glad the surgery was successful, even though the recovery journey is tough for him.

“I am in so much pain but I am on painkillers and other medications to accelerate my healing process. I thank the doctors and God because He’s the one who made it all possible and gave the doctors who operated on me the strength to make everything successful,” says Maina.

Eric’s father, Elijah Maina says he had opted to take his son to India since many doctors had told him that it would not be possible to treat the case locally. Luckily, a friend introduced him to Dr. Sumit Modi.

“It’s been about a week after the surgery but I’m really glad that my son can now feed himself, he can go to the washroom alone and walk around without assistance, before that he was always tired and had frequent instances of shortness of breath,” Elijah narrates. 

Dr. Lateef Ayodele, who was also part of the team that operated on Eric says the additional social support of an entire family and friends is important unlike in foreign countries where patients go with just one or two relatives.

“We are glad the family managed to save on transport, accommodation costs and evade other difficulties that patients face when they go to seek treatment in foreign countries,” says Dr.Lateef, who is a consultant cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon.

According to him many Kenyans are misled to think that any heart operation requires one to travel to India or other countries.

“But we have the capacity and expertise to do that here. Patients should now start traveling to Kenya from abroad for treatment instead. We need to enhance medical tourism in our country.”