A ‘medical breakthrough’ that could make heart surgery safer

A ‘medical breakthrough’ that could make heart surgery safer
A ‘medical breakthrough’ that could make heart surgery safer

Researchers have developed a tiny balloon that may be able to help doctors identify heart surgery patients who may be at risk of developing fatal complications.
The tubular balloon, which is a few centimeters long, is placed in the chest at the end of bypass surgery and other types of major heart procedures.
Surgeons insert a thin wire through the chest with a deflated balloon at the end. Once it is placed inside the pericardium, the balloon is inflated. The other end of the wire is attached to a monitor that measures changes in pressure on the balloon. The idea is that monitoring this pressure for several days while the patient recovers in hospital will provide an early warning of a potentially fatal condition called cardiac tamponade.
This occurs when the pericardial sac fills with blood or fluid leaking from blood vessels damaged during heart surgery. When the sac fills with fluid, it puts pressure on the heart, stopping it from beating properly and greatly reducing blood flow to other vital organs.
The condition usually develops within 48 hours of a major heart procedure. It is considered a medical emergency because, if not caught quickly, it can lead to fatal cardiac arrest.
Although a rare condition, it is responsible for 30 percent of deaths due to complications from heart surgery.
An experimental balloon device developed by Hazem Fallouh, a cardiac surgeon, of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, could be a solution.
In addition to the balloon, a second wire with a special sensor at the end called a Doppler probe is inserted into the same area.
This causes high-frequency sound waves to bounce off red blood cells in the heart, to get a picture of how much blood is flowing through the arteries.



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