A 58-year-old man with a rare condition was recently operated on at Balaji Hospital in Chromepet.

The patient had complained of breathlessness and palpitations, and was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease with a severe narrowing of the mitral valve. The patient also suffered from mild aortic valve regurgitation and atrial fibrillation.

When cardiologists began their investigation, they realised that the patient’s heart was on the right side. “The patient’s heart was on the opposite side, as were other organs like the liver, gall bladder, spleen and intestines,” said cardiothoracic surgeon S. Balachandran, who performed the surgery.

“In such patients the position of the valves are also reversed. The condition is believed to occur in one in 12,000 people. Of these, in one in 30 people the position of all the blood vessels are reversed. It is even rarer to find a patient who has this condition and who has rheumatic heart disease that requires a mitral valve replacement,” he added.

The surgeon said it was a challenge to operate on such patients as surgeons could have spot decisions to make after opening the heart. “The patient is put on a heart-lung machine and we have to operate from the left side. While such a surgery in a normal patient may last around three hours, it took us four and half hours to complete this surgery,” said Dr. Balachandran, who has served at Government Stanley Hospital and Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, before starting the cardiothoracic surgery department at Balaji Hospital.

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