If 36-year-old Sylvester E. had to stay in Nigeria, he may not have lived to see his middle-age years. Thanks to Dr. Allam Alkowatli, Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine and Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at Emirates Hospital, Sylvester was able to travel to Dubai to receive the life-saving surgery that he needed. What Sylvester needed was Cardio Balloon Valvuloplasty surgery to open up a stiff tight valve in his heart that was causing him chest pain, trouble breathing and suffocation, palpitations as well as a host of other health-related problems.
When Sylvester began to notice problems breathing, while doing minor everyday activities, he made an appointment to see his physician in Nigeria, who told him he had a major problem in his heart, maybe a hole, to find out later it was more serious.
However, realizing he was dealing with a life-threatening condition, Sylvester immediately began to research online for the best Interventional Cardiologist in the world who could diagnose his problem and perform the surgery, immediately.
After a 10 hour flight, Sylvester arrived at Emirates Hospital to meet Dr. Alkowatli and the clinical staff who would save his life. “I live in Nigeria and there wasn’t much help where I lived, so I found Dr. Alkowatli who immediately diagnosed my problem using special tests and the rest is history,” said Sylvester.
Dr. Alkowatl is a well-respected American Board Certified Consultant Interventional Cardiologist and a pioneer in interventional cardiology in the UAE, with a great success rate of achieving optimal results following complex cardiac interventions that typically exceeds 90% overall. His success rate in opening chronic total vessel occlusions or CTO usually exceeds 75-80%. He has engaged in numerous interventional cardiology research work and publications.
He holds American Board certifications in Interventional Cardiology, Cardiovascular Disease, and Internal Medicine. He is also American Board eligible and licensed in Nuclear Cardiology in the United States.
“The average person’s Oxygen saturation level should be above 95%, but in Sylvester’s case his level was 70% well below what is necessary for blood to properly deliver and circulate Oxygen through the heart, lungs, brain and other vital organs. The condition, if left untreated will eventually leads to death,” said Dr. Alkowatli.
Dr. Alkowatli performed initial high-quality ultrasound, followed by laboratory blood work and other required health screenings to confirm Sylvester’s condition and the new important diagnosis causing his symptoms. “It’s easy to take for granted how fortunate we are to live in a country where we have access to quality medical care. Sylvester’s condition, although extremely dangerous, was certainly treatable, but he wasn’t able to get the help he needed in his home country. As a medical provider, it’s always gratifying to play a role in helping patients like Sylvester receive the care they need.”
Dr. Alkowatli performed Sylvester’s nearly 5-hour surgery, under general anesthesia, by inserting a small, narrow, hollow tube (catheter) into a blood vessel in the groin area, advancing through the Iliac veins, the large vena cava veins then into the heart. Once the catheter reached the stiff tight valve, a wire was advanced and a large balloon placed through the valve over the wire and inflated until the flaps (leaflets) of the tight heart valve were pushed away and opened. Once the valve opened, the balloon was deflated and the catheter removed.
“Because of his condition, Sylvester spent most of his days struggling to breathe, and if left untreated, Sylvester would have experienced heart and organ failure, leading to eventual death. But after his successful surgery, Sylvester was discharged after one day and was able to return home to Nigeria, hopefully lead a perfectly normal and healthy life.”
Cardio Valvuloplasty surgery is less painful and less expensive than traditional open-heart surgery. It is convenient, typically lasts 4 – 5 hours, and offers patients a speedy recovery. Most healthy patients who respond well can have a meal within one hour after the procedure and are discharged home within 24 hours. Patients typically see immediate improvements; successful surgeries lead to 100% Oxygen saturation. Although these surgeries can last for years patients must adhere to strict follow up care.
Dr. Alkowatli required Sylvester to follow-up with a local cardiologist in his home country within 30 days, followed by a three-month exam, and subsequent three-month checkups in the future. “Although the procedure is less invasive than open heart surgery, significant risks of valvuloplasty are still possible but very infrequent and can include bleeding at the catheter insertion site, blood clot or damage to the blood vessel at the insertion site, significant blood loss, abnormal heart rhythms, kidney failure and stroke,” said Dr. Alkowatli. “To mitigate the risks, it is vital that Sylvester take precaution and follow up with his hometown cardiologist, as I prescribed,” he added.
Sylvester’s Cardio Balloon Valvuloplasty surgery at Emirates Hospital, which included pre-tests and screenings, was paid out of pocket as insurance does not typically cover surgery for tourists or visitors from other countries who do not have local healthcare insurance coverage. Nonetheless, the cost was not a factor for Sylvester who knew he had no other alternative if he wanted to live. However, given the choice for medical treatment, he chose Emirates Hospital for their reputation in providing impeccable quality care and for Dr. Alkowatli’s successful track record in the field of Interventional cardiology and Cardio Balloon Valvuloplasty.