New device to benefit heart patients

A Cape Town heart patient last week became the first South African to benefit from a locally developed device that could eliminate the need for follow-up surgery after a coronary artery bypass.

A Cape Town heart patient last week became the first South African to benefit from a locally developed device that could eliminate the need for follow-up surgery after a coronary artery bypass.

The device is a mesh woven of a nickel-titanium alloy, and is used to enclose and support the grafted vein used for the bypass.

The operation was carried out at the University of Cape Town's Private Academic Hospital, the hospital said in a media release yesterday.

It said the unnamed patient was only the third in the world to take part in what was intended as a worldwide trial of the device.

Dr Loven Moodley, a surgeon and researcher on the project, said though veins taken from the leg were usually used for the bypass, they were not used to the high pressure arteries had to bear.

This resulted in tearing of their inner walls, fresh blockages and repeat surgery. The light but tough mesh, developed by UCT researchers, allowed the vein to contract and expand, and effectively turned it into an artery.

"It will last forever," said Professor Johan Brink, one of the cardiologists involved in the operation.

Moodley said that every year more than 1,2 million patients worldwide needed a bypass operation. "In South Africa alone, this new device has the potential of extending the life of a few thousand [bypass] patients every year," he said. - Sapa

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