The unique paediatric cardiac surgery program at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), the only one of its kind in the country, has brought hope to thousands of newborns over the years, as it draws closer to its seventh anniversary of operation this year.
Before the era of paediatric cardiac surgery, the chances of survival past 18 years old for a newborn with congenital heart disease fell below 20%, whereas presently more than 80% live past 20 years old, according to Dr. Laszlo Kiraly, Chief of Paediatric Cardiac Surgery at SKMC.
According to the physician’s data, more than 500 babies are born with congenital heart disease in the UAE every year, with nearly 70 percent of them requiring cardiac surgery, and more than half of those within the first six months of life.
“There is great public demand for this service, as parents may not be able to take their newborn baby overseas for treatment which is predominantly surgical and can be prohibitively expensive. SKMC has the only service that is a dedicated 24/7 comprehensive program for paediatric heart disease,” Dr. Kiraly said.
“We have been nominated by SEHA as “a centre of excellence” that has gained the support and confidence of the community, with a third of our patients being locals,” he added.
In 2013, SKMC’s one-of-a-kind paediatric cardiac surgery program reached over 1800 surgeries conducted since its inception, treating between 300 and 330 cases per year since it started in 2007, offering hope the chance of a happy and fulfilling life for children with congenital heart disorders who would otherwise have faced ill-health or death. In March 2014 the program completed 100 surgeries for the year already, and is expecting to reach 2000 overall by the end of April.
In addition to operating on children with congenital heart disorders, the paediatric cardiac surgery team treat adolescents and adults that were born with cardiac defects and who weren’t able to have their problems resolved in their youth. SKMC’s Grown Up Congenital Heart or ‘GUCH’ program is another initiative that is the only one of its kind in the country. The GUCH program treats patients who often fall into a ‘grey area,’ between children and adults, so a multidisciplinary input is required involving both the hospital’s adult and paediatric services.
The program requires special expertise as traditional cardiac surgery for an older person is geared towards the treatment of heart disease associated with aging and lifestyle, with the focus being on the replacement of blocked coronary arteries and damaged heart valves, as opposed to the correction of birth defects in the adult age.
The paediatric cardiac surgery division has the country’s only Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) program for paediatric patients, which is an advanced form of life support used to treat infants and children in cardiac and/or respiratory failure. It works as a modified form of heart and lung bypass on a temporary basis, and is an alternative to conventional methods of life support.
“The ability to improve the life of a child and enable them to grow up fit and strong is one of the greatest gifts a person can bestow on society and is a skill that demands recognition. SKMC’s pediatric cardiac surgery outcomes exceed those even in the US, according to a University HealthSystem Consortium Discharges report,” said Dr. Abdulmajeed Al Zubaidi, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist and Chief Medical Officer at SKMC.
SKMC, managed by Cleveland Clinic, is part of the SEHA HealthSystem and owned and operated by Abu Dhabi Health Services Company PJSC (SEHA), which is responsible for the curative activities of all the public hospitals and clinics in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
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