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very surgery has its risks. For a small group

of people, they may need to take this risk

once every decade to survive. Born with

an abnormal connection between the

heart and the blood vessel that supplies blood

to the lungs (see sidebox on page 5: “Congenital

pulmonary valve defects”), patients may have to

undergo three open heart surgeries by the time

they are in their 30s.

These procedures are crucial as they allow doctors

to implant an artificial tube-like vessel into the heart

to help increase blood flow to the lungs, or replace

an implant that has degenerated over time.

But Dr Edgar Tay, a cardiologist from the National

University Heart Centre, Singapore (NUHCS), has

seen many patients put o their surgeries due

to their apprehension. “It is a big psychological

burden. Some patients or their families see

each surgery as ‘testing fate’,” shares the

Senior Consultant.

Dr Tay’s patient, Mr Tan Xin Chun, 32, recalls the

painful recovery from his third open heart surgery

in 2010: “I was very weak and in a lot of pain. I

needed help to do everything – from eating, to

drinking, to getting dressed. I even had to learn

to walk again.”

Put o by the painful recovery and the risks

involved in the operation, Mr Tan even tried

to delay his next major operation by ignoring

his symptoms and “learning to live with the

breathlessness and fainting spells”.

Aware of patients’ concerns, congenital heart

specialists from NUHCS and the National University

Hospital’s (NUH) Division of Paediatric Cardiology

People with heart defects

usually face a series of open

heart surgeries.


looks at how the National

University Heart Centre,

Singapore strives to minimise

such traumatic operations

and provide better care for

its patients.







OCT 2016