Though experts insist Uganda Heart Institute (UHI) has the capacity to carry out open heart surgery on one thousand patients annually but six hundred of them prefer to go abroad like India. The outbound numbers set to change drastically after Government on Wednesday announced UHI was able to carry out new procedures for diagnosing life threatening irregular heartbeats known as Electrophysiology study (EPS) and its treatment known as Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA).
Abnormal heartbeats constitute 19% of the heart disease burden worldwide while at the Uganda Heart Institute they constitute 25% of the patients seen on a daily basis but this intervention will greatly benefit the country in reducing medical referrals abroad and increasing the competitiveness of Uganda’s health sector in the region.
“The treatment for life threatening irregular heartbeats known as Radiofrequency Ablation is a non-surgical, minimally-invasive treatment,” said Minister of Health Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng.
“Today is a significant occasion in the history of science and the history of cardiology in this country. Heart disease is a major killer therefore, finding the origins of heart disease is a fundamental task of science,” she said.
Now the Heart Institute is able to carry out all major and minor procedures in the heart and owns the only catheterization laboratory in the country which was fully funded by the Government of Uganda in 2012.
Diagnosis and treatment of life threatening irregular heartbeats in Uganda
According to the Ministry of Health, Radiofrequency Ablation uses high frequency waves to direct heat to the part of the heart that is causing the irregular heartbeat to stop the abnormal heartbeat and correct it. It is possible to treat such abnormal heart beats without opening the chest. During the Electrophysiology studies (EPS), various specialized wires are inserted into the blood vessels in the groin and advanced up to the heart with the visual aid of special X-Ray cameras.
These wires pick signals and patterns of electricity flow from different parts of the heart. In this way, we are able to identify the causes of the abnormal heartbeats within the heart.
A special form of Electrical energy (Radiofrequency Ablation) is then delivered to stop the abnormal electrical paths. This provides a cure rate of not less than 90% and eliminates the need to take drugs on a daily basis to suppress the abnormal rhythm.
A total of thirteen patients had been identified with irregular heartbeats and benefited from this procedure. 11 of them were successfully worked upon between the 3rd and 5th of April 2018, while two were further identified with other complications and the treatment had to be deferred to a future date.
“All the patients worked on have done well and were discharged. Today, we are privileged to have four of them and they are happy to share their experiences with the public,” Minister Aceng revealed.
Patients with irregular heartbeats present with pounding heartbeats (palpitations), dizziness, fainting attacks and can even die if some of these irregular heartbeats are not stopped quickly.
According to Dr. Aceng, Dr. Mesut Demir from Istanbul, Turkey, and the Medtronic Foundation and Company facilitated the training opportunities offered to Ugandan specialists to acquire these skills.
The Ugandan team was led by Dr Joselyn Rwebembera who has specialized in this intervention and is the only one of her kind in Uganda, and she is currently training her colleagues.