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Seven-year-old Alyan was diagnosed with a rare form of congenital cardiomyopathy while still in his mother’s womb. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha), the UAE’s largest health-care service provider, has saved the life of a seven-year-old boy with a serious and complex congenital heart condition through implanting an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) at Shaikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) Hospital, Abu Dhabi.

Congenital heart condition

Alyan, a seven-year-old boy was diagnosed with a rare form of congenital cardiomyopathy while still in his mother’s womb. He had a history of losing consciousness, with his family needing to conduct cardiac compressions at home. In July and October 2021, Alyan collapsed and was unresponsive for seven minutes, experiencing two episodes of exertional syncope, or fainting.

His family admitted him to Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) hospital. There, diagnostic tests revealed that the boy had a slow heart rhythm that was causing loss of consciousness, with the risk of a dangerous rapid heart rhythm. Upon this discovery, Dr Christopher Duke, the consultant cardiologist at SKMC, made the initial recommendation of placing a temporary pacemaker, which was later replaced with the implantation of the ICD. This device can manage both fast and slow heart rhythm problems, ensuring Alyan was in the best position possible to be treated for his symptoms.

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Alyan, after the successful heart surgery at SKMC in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Supplied

Best paediatric care

Dr Andrew David Mclean, acting chair of Cardiac Sciences, said: “At SKMC, we deliver the best paediatric cardiac care to the entire community, including neonates. Our comprehensive cardiac services are delivered by highly qualified paediatric cardiac experts with the support of other specialities in a multidisciplinary approach. With a team of specialised and distinguished surgeons, we were able to successfully perform this complex surgery locally, which, otherwise, would have had to be done overseas.”

The challenges

Dr Andrew David Mclean

The medical team implanted the defibrillator through a complex surgery, as Alyan’s weight was a mere 20kg at the time of the surgery, which resulted in him having incredibly thin subcutaneous tissues (the innermost layer of the skin). This meant that the surgical team had to implant it within the axillary (located in or near the armpit) position. This form of complex surgery, called an ‘Axillary Generator Implantation’, was a part of an international research project that Dr Duke was involved in.

Best option in country of residence

Dr Duke elaborated: “Pacemaker generators are usually implanted in the anterior, or the front of the chest. However, we took into consideration other aspects such as mental, functional and cosmetic standpoints. Alyan has already been through so much, so we wanted to ensure he had the best quality of life post-surgery and to not make him feel self-conscious. His father had initially intended to travel abroad for treatment, until they were referred to SKMC by a family friend. Treating him in his country of residence meant added convenience and reassurance.”

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Grateful family

Alyan’s father praised the efforts of SKMC’s medical and surgical team, adding: “I cannot express how grateful I am to Dr Duke and the medical team at SKMC. Without a doubt, seeing your child suffer was an incredibly difficult experience. We received excellent care at SKMC and are incredibly thankful that we were referred to Seha for treatment. Thank you for giving my son a chance to live a healthy, normal life.”