Heart surgeons find their way in Senegal

Apr 26, 2011 by Coumba Sylla

When Mouhamadou Ndiaye began talking about open-heart surgery in Senegal in 1990, authorities told him it wasn't a priority.

"We don't have open-heart surgery problems," they said, according to Ndiaye, head of the thoracic and cardiovascular surgery department at Dakar's Fann university teaching hospital. "Our problems are malaria, diarrhoea, vomiting."

"My reply, invariably, was that all patients were patients and needed care," said Ndiaye, who received his training in Europe and returned to Senegal in 1989.

It took time, collaboration with several non-governmental organisations and especially a fortuitous encounter, in 1995, with an American surgeon before the first open-heart operation took place in Senegal, Ndiaye said.

Four patients underwent surgery at the Aristide Le Dantec hospital in Dakar, with a large US team taking part including a surgeon and three anaesthetists, he said.

"At the time, lots of people couldn't believe it. It was a challenge," Ndiaye said.

"Fortunately, it went well" for everyone, he added, recalling "a lot of pressure" from both the Senegalese and the American sides.

Fifteen years later open-heart surgery has become common in this country of nearly 13 million, and Ngiaye's department is a reference point for the west African region.

"Here we have a permanent team. Every week there are patients who have (open-heart) operations," Ndiaye said, noting however that there are more adults than children.

"The share of pediatrics in our activity is around 15 to 20 percent, but this percentage concerns mainly big childen who weigh more than 20 kilogrammes (45 pounds)," he said.

While the centre has operated on Malian adults before, it was treating non-Senegalese children for the first time.

In the operating room, Senegalese and French lean over an open thorax in which a glistening heart is beating.

Thirteen-year-old Aminata Diakite is one of six Malian children brought to Dakar under a humanitarian programme aimed at children from poor families who need surgery to "repair" their complicated heart conditions.

Operating room attendant Amagor Diouf explains the working of the heart-lung machine, a sophisticated pump that "will take over when we stop the heart to work inside the valves."

Aminata's heart condition is "very advanced," said French thoracic and cardio-vascular surgeon Gerard Babatasi, who is based in Caen, northern France. "If we did nothing, she would die."

The programme was developed and is underwritten by the French group La Chaine de l'Espoir (The Chain of Hope), which has worked with Senegalese heart specialists for two decades and has also worked in Cambdia, Afghanistan and Mozambique.

Babatasi is also vice president of La Chaine de l'Espoir which, thanks to donations, "takes on and treats children's heart conditions in all countries where there is no cardiac surgical centre" such as Senegal's.

It brought four girls and two boys, aged between six and 15, from Mali, paying for the surgery and post-operative care.

The six children from "very poor families" suffer congenital heart disease with no one to pay for a remedy, Babatasi said.

One did not survive. "It was a very complex operation and it went badly," he said.

The five other operations at Dakar's university hospital were successful and the patients are recovering remarkably quickly, doctors say.

Nine-year-old Maimouna Diarra, her torso swathed in bandages, tubes and wires in the recovery ward, "is already alert and energetic 24 hours after her operation," said Oumar Diarra, a Senegalese member of the surgery team.

After they leave hospital, the five little Malians will stay with Senegalese families who volunteered to take them in for a few weeks as they convalesce.

The operations are very expensive by west African standards at around two million CFA francs (some 3,000 euros or 4,000 dollars), Ndiaye said.

La Chaine de L'Espoir has demonstrated the advantages of an "inter-regional" approach, notably in reducing costs compared with treatment in Europe, and in the practical training of local specialists, Ndiaye said.

"The ideal is to develop technical arenas locally so that we can operate on patients in the region," he said, adding: "The more we do, the better we do."

Explore further: Simulation-based training improves endoscopy execution

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Performing surgery on a beating heart may be safer

Jan 31, 2007

According to a review of the latest clinical trials, coronary artery bypass surgery performed on a beating heart, without the aid of a heart-lung machine, is a safe option that leads to fewer negative side effects for bypass ...

No drop in IQ seen after bypass for child heart surgery

Nov 10, 2008

The use of cardiopulmonary bypass does not cause short-term neurological problems in children and teenagers after surgery for less complex heart defects, according to pediatric researchers. The new finding contrasts favorably ...

Octogenarians can be good candidates for heart surgery

Oct 28, 2008

Patients 80 years and older who are in overall good health are perfectly able to withstand open-heart surgery, according to the latest study of Dr. Kevin Lachapelle of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). His findings ...

Recommended for you

Using feminist theory to understand male rape

2 hours ago

Decades of feminist research have framed rape and sexual assault as a 'women's issue', leaving little room for the experiences of male victims. But a new study published in the Journal of Gender Studies suggests that feminist ...

Simulation-based training improves endoscopy execution

Oct 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—Simulation-based training (SBT) improves clinicians' performance of gastrointestinal endoscopy in both test settings and clinical practice, according to research published in the October issue ...

Data sharing in pharmaceutical industry shows progress

Oct 16, 2014

To enhance the transparency of clinical trials for new drugs, a number of pharmaceutical firms have begun sharing data with investigators outside their own companies. Brian L. Strom, chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health ...

Swiss drug maker Roche posts flat 3Q sales

Oct 16, 2014

(AP)—Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG has reported "stable" or flat sales for the first nine months of 2013 but says the results show strong demand for its cancer drugs and emerging new products.

User comments : 0