KUALA LUMPUR: The National Heart Institute (IJN) has successfully performed the first total aorta replacement surgery in Malaysia.
Consultant cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Paneer Selvam (pic) said that the operation was a cutting-edge procedure carried out on a patient who had a thoracoabdominal aneurysm (swelling at the lower half of the aorta or tearing of the internal wall of the aorta).
An aortic aneurysm is the abnormal swelling of the aorta, the largest blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
"If left untreated, an aneurysm can eventually cause the vessel to swell to the point of rupture.
"In such cases, the risk of death is as high as 80%," he said during a press conference on Wednesday.
The first patient who had the total aorta replacement was a 44-year-old woman who had had two operations before she suffered a severe swelling of the aorta, he said.
Dr Paneer said that in the past, such patients would have had no more hope, but the patient was able to have a new lease of life following the new synthetic aorta replacement.
He said that the synthetic aorta was expected to last a lifetime.
IJN chief executive officer Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Azhari Yakub said the surgery is very complex and costs from RM60,000 to RM80,000.
The other patient that IJN had treated for total replacement of the aorta is a 54-year-old man who was referred to the institute for further management of a complex aorta problem.
Dr Paneer said that five in 100,000 people run the risk of getting such an aneurysm, and when the condition worsens, they would need some form of treatment such as putting in a stent, or outright surgery.
The problem could be caused by old age, hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, as well as due to congenital defects.
Dr Paneer said symptoms of the aorta swelling or its internal wall tearing included chest pains, back pains, abdominal pains, difficulty in swallowing, and shortness of breath.
"If you have any of these symptoms or a family history of aorta dissection (internal wall tearing of the aorta) or aneurysm, you should go to a nearby hospital for a simple screening test," he said.