For the first time ever in Belgium, a patient has undergone heart-valve replacement surgery while under local anaesthetic.
The operation took place in the city general hospital in Aalst, already known for its excellence in heart surgery under Professor Pedro Brugada, surgeon to the former king Albert II.
The operation was carried out by Dr. Michaël Rosseel, now head of the hospital’s cardiology department and a specialist in heart catheterisation.
The valves in the heart govern the flow of blood, making sure it travels in the right direction from the body to the heart to the lungs, then back to the heart and back out to the rest of the body.
Normally the replacement of a faulty heart valve would require open-heart surgery and a general anaesthetic, both of which carry substantial risks.
However Dr. Rosseel went in through the patient’s axillary artery – the artery in the armpit – and guided to the heart using a cardioscope. The operation could then be carried out without opening the patient’s chest, and with only a local anaesthetic to numb the site of the entry of the instruments in the armpit.
This sort of operation has been carried out elsewhere before, but never until now in Belgium. The patient is 82 years old, and would have been at high risk of complications by conventional surgery and the long recovery time required.
“This minor intervention is much easier to stand that a difficult open heart surgery,” Dr Rosseel said. “This way we can operate especially on older people with much less risk. They are also able to leave the hospital sooner.”
The patient in this case was allowed home only two days after surgery.