At 20 kg, 14-year-old A. Divya weighs much less than other children her age.

She has been irregular to school for the past four years, struggling with a narrowed heart valve, a failed surgery and recurrent health problems.

But the past week has been different for this class VIII student. She is back to school and is hale and hearty.

Instead of undergoing a second surgery for mitral valve stenosis, she underwent percutaneous balloon mitral valvotomy (PBMV) at Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (GH) in May.

In fact, she is the youngest of the 195 patients to have undergone the procedure at GH.

PBMV involves passing a balloon device through a catheter via the blood vessel near the groin to dilate the stenosed valve.

“Divya’s low weight was a big challenge. She weighed as little as a nine-year-old and so, we ordered a special small-sized balloon,” said Justin Paul, professor of cardiology. In surgery, the patient is hospitalised for 15 days and takes two or three months to recover. But in PBMV, the patient can be discharged the next day.

“Rheumatic fever, which occurs between the ages of nine and 14, can affect the heart if not treated. It starts with pain in the knee joints, throat pain, fever and causes breathlessness and fatigue. It then progresses to the heart, affecting the valves. It is important to get treated immediately to prevent damage to the heart,” said M.S. Ravi, head of department of cardiology, GH, on Saturday.

R. Vimala, dean of GH, and D. Muthukumar, professor of cardiology, were also present.

Doctors said 15 to 20 per cent of cardiac patients at GH have rheumatic heart diseases. At GH, PBMV is covered under the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme.

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