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Surgery helps child survive heart anomaly

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Three-year-old Amrithavarshini with her mother Lakshmi. —
Three-year-old Amrithavarshini with her mother Lakshmi. —

R. Sujatha

For ICH, this was the first such procedure to be performed

CHENNAI: A three-year-old child who suffered from a congenital heart anomaly recently underwent a procedure to prolong her life by 20 years at the Government Children’s Hospital here.

The child, Amrithavarshini (Amritha), was born a blue baby. Her condition — transposition of the great arteries – meant that the position of the pulmonary artery and aorta are reversed. The result was that her heart performed two circuits: impure blood circulated in the body, and oxygenated blood travelled from the lungs to the heart only. An arterial opening helped the child survive.

Amritha’s parents Lakshmi and Jayagopi run a grocery shop in Kancheepuram. They took the child to a private hospital in Bangalore and to the government hospital in Puducherry from where they were turned away. They were told that the usual corrective technique in which the arteries are surgically repositioned to perform their normal duties is taken up within a month of birth.

Amritha came to the Children’s Hospital when she was 11 months old. At that time doctors put her on medication and followed up every three months as the hospital did not have the expertise to perform the complex surgery.

A couple of weeks ago, Amritha hiccoughed on milk, making her breathless.

Lakshmi brought her to the hospital where doctors decided to perform a surgery to correct the defect to some extent. Amritha was among the lucky 10 per cent to survive the anomaly and live longer, cardiologist P. Moorthy said.

On March 19, he led a team of doctors including cardiologist R. Sundar and anaesthetist B. Kailash that performed a procedure called Senning’s operation to prolong Amritha’s life by another 20 years. In a normal heart, the left ventricle, with thicker muscles, pumps blood. But in Amritha’s case, the right ventricle will have to do the work. When Amritha enters adolescence, her heart will slowly begin to lose its capacity to pump, as the muscles of the right ventricle are not thick enough to take up pumping.

“She cannot lead an active life. Things may change and with scientific advances she could live longer,” Dr. Moorthy said expressing his hope for the best.

For the ICH, this was the first such procedure to be performed. The four-hour surgery included putting the child on a heart-lung machine for 90 minutes.

Consanguineous marriages, diabetes in the mother, genetic abnormality, viral infection, drug overdose in the first trimester of pregnancy, exposure to X-ray, poor nutrition of the mother, and smoking and alcohol consumption by the parents could result in such congenital heart anomalies, doctors said. In Amritha’s case, however, none of the above conditions was valid. She has two older sisters who are studying in school.

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