Masters of affairs of the heart

Much time has passed since Minsk could claim to be the only place in Belarus boasting the latest medical technologies
Much time has passed since Minsk could claim to be the only place in Belarus boasting the latest medical technologies. For several years, hi-tech surgeries have been successful across the regions, and the range of their scope is ever growing: especially important for patients with critical heart problems. Previously, patients from Grodno Region suffering from a dissected thoracic aorta were obliged to rush to the capital. Unfortunately, not all survived the long trip. Now, these and many other surgeries are held at the Grodno Regional Clinical Heart Centre, saving people’s lives.

Grodno Regional Clinical Heart Centre doctors at work

Grodno Regional Clinical Heart Centre is a modern medical institution equipped with the latest technologies, and conducting almost all types of cardiac surgery, including cardiovalvulotomy, and surgeries on coronary arteries and greater vessels.

Its doctors are a unique combination of youth and experience. Of its 10 surgeons, four are studying for the second year, having graduated from the medical university. They are entering the highest caste of their sphere, becoming cardiac surgeons. The others are professionals who have years of training behind them, including two-year clinical studies at the Scientific and Practical Centre of Cardiology, and at leading clinics in Europe.

The region’s cardiology has acquired a new round of development with the introduction of a new сardio-surgical building, funded by a regional investment programme. It’s also a platform for active co-operation with foreign colleagues: surgeons from the Netherlands have come on a work-exchange programme, sharing their experience of hi-tech surgeries to treat arrhythmias, operating on 25 patients.

Grodno is one of only a handful of regional centres offering valve replacement surgery using ‘key-hole’ techniques. The head doctor of the Grodno Regional Clinical Heart Centre, Tamara Dolgoshey, tells us, “Such surgeries require the highest surgical skill but are least invasive, enabling much faster healing and recovery. People can return to work more quickly, and it saves state money spent on treatment. Unsurprisingly, these surgeries are very much in demand.”

Andrey Yanushko (centre) with colleagues, discussing treatment for a patient

The deputy head doctor for cardiac surgery, Andrey Yanushko, conducts ‘key-hole’ surgeries in Grodno. Two such were even broadcast online for Belarusian, Russian and Israeli colleagues, during a seminar on this technique, hosted by Grodno. Several small (about 5cm) incisions are used to access parts of the body. Few clinics worldwide have been able to offer such operations, until recently: only those in the USA, Germany and Israel. However, three years ago, the Scientific and Practical Centre of Cardiology began using the method, followed by the Grodno Regional Clinical Heart Centre. Last year, about 30 surgeries were achieved using the new technique.

The Centre has been managing to treat more patients with each year that passes: from 200 in 2013 to 349 in 2014, and 400 this year so far. The figure should hit 500 by New Year.

Doctors say that regional executive power support has been vital in purchasing necessary equipment, including at the end of last year, when much equipment was acquired for ‘key-hole’ surgeries. Residents of Grodno Region are the primary beneficiaries but patients from other regions and, even, neighbouring states do receive treatment. This year alone, five Russian patients, from Ukraine and Armenia, have received surgery (at a cost of approximately $10,000). Of course, such operations are free for Belarusians.

Previously, only Minsk offered a wide range of surgeries but these are now being offered in Grodno, such as cardiovalvulotomies, in combination with surgeries to restore heart rhythm (magnetic techniques). Surgeons have helped 15 patients and have experience across two main zones: arteries supplying the heart and brain with blood. There used to be two brigades of surgeons, one cardio and one vascular, but the ‘job’ is now combined, with a single surgeon able to perform.

Grodno cardiac surgeons are technically ready to conduct heart transplants but the number required is still modest enough for Minsk’s Scientific and Practical Centre of Cardiology to cope. However, it’s good for the team in the capital to feel the support of nearby colleagues.

By Ivan Ivanov

Photo by BELTA
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