KUALA LUMPUR: Two-month-old Ong Yee Ling has become the smallest premature baby to undergo cardiac surgery at the National Heart Institute (IJN).
A team of cardiothoracic surgeons led by the institute's cardiothoracic surgery department chief, Datuk Dr Mohd Azhari Yakub, carried out the operation on April 5.
The infant was just 2.3kg when she was born on Feb 3 at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (KLH).
Five days later, she was diagnosed with “type A interrupted arch” and a ventricular septal defect (an imperfection in the wall that separates the right and left ventricle).
Doctors at the KLH referred the baby to the heart institute on Feb 14 and the infant was warded on March 19 for surgery.
The procedure to repair the interrupted arch and close the septal defect was done in one operation.
The baby is currently in the intensive care unit and is reported to be in stable condition.
“The success of this surgery means a lot to us and the Institute, especially because it’s quite a difficult surgery on a very small baby,” said Dr Azhari.
The first defect involved the main blood vessel (aortic arch) that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
The second defect was to the wall that separates two of the four chambers of the heart (the ventricles).
Dr Azhari said previous operations of a similar nature had been conducted on infants who weighed 3kg or more.
“We only started operating on infants weighing below 3kg early this year,” he told a press conference yesterday.
Dr Azhari said during the 66-minute surgery, the blood circulation to the entire body was stopped for 14 minutes and doctors had to cool down Yee Ling to 16°C to protect the heart muscles.
He said the challenge was that premature infants tend to respond more adversely to stressful stimuli, such as infection.
Consultant paediatric intensivist Dr Khairul Faizah Mohd Khalid said Yee Ling had shown good progress.
“We will take her off the ventilator tomorrow (today) to see if she can breathe on her own,” he said.
The baby’s mother, Yap Soh Theng, 25, said that five days after Yee Ling was born, she was informed her firstborn had a hole in the heart.
“I’m now relieved and happy, and I thank all the doctors who treated her,” added the clerk, who had quit her job to care for Yee Ling.