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Heart transplant centre opens in Chennai

Fortis Malar Hospital will boast the largest heart failure treatment programme in the country

Gulf News

Mumbai: India’s first comprehensive centre for treatment of end-stage heart failure, heart transplants and artificial heart programme was launched in Chennai on Friday.

The new facility at Fortis Malar Hospital will boast the largest heart failure treatment programme in the country where heart transplants will be carried out on all age groups to international standards.

Heart failure is a major health challenge worldwide, including in India.

Worldwide, 20 million people suffer from heart failure, with India recording two million new cases every year — at least a third of which require advanced therapy to survive.

Health experts say the chances of death for heart failure patients are as high as 30-40 per cent within a year of diagnosis.

In India, the treatment for heart failure is restricted to medical therapy, revascularisation therapy (restoration/augmentation of blood supply to the heart), valvular surgeries and cardiac resynchronisation (heart pacing) therapy.

What sets the Fortis Centre apart is its designation as a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Destination Therapy Centre, a bridge to a transplant in case it is required later. VADs are implantable mechanical heart pumps and have been used in recent times to sustain patients who are candidates for heart transplant as they await a donor heart and are increasingly being used as a substitute for transplantation.

Emerging research shows that VAD patients find that their hearts actually improve with help from these mechanical pumps, officials said.

Inaugurating the Centre, Aditya Vij, CEO, Fortis Healthcare Ltd and Chairman, Fortis Malar Hospitals Ltd, said, “Advances in medicine have made heart transplants safer and a real option in managing cases of end stage heart failure. Cardiac care at Fortis Malar is well established and ranked among the finest in the country.

“Our team of highly accomplished doctors led by Dr K.R. Balakrishnan and Dr Suresh Rao has done pioneering work in the field and have performed the largest number of successful heart transplants in the country. I am sure the Centre will benefit many of our patients who will no longer have to seek treatment abroad for heart failure.”

Dr Balakrishnan, Director of the Centre, said, “The majority of patients who can benefit from our advanced therapy are not aware of the facilities available in India. Moreover, in Tamil Nadu alone, each year, 100-150 organ donors are available but the heart transplants carried out are around 20. Our goal is to provide the highest quality of patient-centred care to many more patients right here in India, utilising our interdisciplinary approach, enormous talent and the multi-skilled resources within our team.”

The heart disease management programme also includes preventive measures to avoid heart failure, including peak oxygen consumption measurement, lung-heart machines, nutritional counselling designed to help patients adhere to a complex medical regimen and specialised low-salt diet.

In addition, patients learn to recognise fluid retention, which signals heart failure.

They are also counselled on aspects of cardiac rehabilitation and individualised exercise plans to strengthen their heart muscle, improve blood circulation and support the recovery process.

The heart transplant team at Fortis Malar has so far performed 35-ECMO, 16 heart transplants, 5 VADs and is credited with India’s first successful implantation of Heartmate, a mechanical artificial heart pump.