Surgery to save unborn child a first in SA

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Dr Ishmail Bhorat

A Durban gynaecologist and obstetrician saved the life of an unborn child by drawing fluid from inside the pericardial cavity that was compressing the heart and lungs – the first time this operation has been done in SA, says a Sunday Tribune report.

Mother and unborn baby are healthy and, the report says, the baby is due in two months.

Dr Ismail Bhorat, the head of Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital’s foetal unit, performed the pericardiocentesis on 1 September on Shakaskraal mother Thandazile Ntetha, 29, who experienced difficulties in her pregnancy at 29 weeks.

Bhorat discovered that the baby’s heart had a ventricular aneurysm (blood vessel malformation in the outer muscle of the heart) causing large amounts of fluid to accumulate and this resulted in an abnormal heart rate and rhythm. The report says these cases are rare, seen only in 1 out of 300 000 pregnancies.

“This would have resulted in the death of the foetus. I decided to do a pericardiocentesis through ultrasound control – which is foetal cardiac surgery – to relieve the pressure on the heart,” said Bhorat.

The report says Bhorat inserted a needle under ultrasonic control, into the mother’s abdomen, into the amniotic fluid, through the foetal chest wall and into the space around the heart. Bhorat said 30ml of fluid was extracted.

“The procedure was a resounding success and the baby is back to normal with a healthy heart,” the doctor said. Ntetha would remain in hospital care until the birth because she had to be monitored. “This is an extremely special case which we cannot lose track of,” said Bhorat.

According to the report, the team was applauded by KZN Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo who said the surgery was proof of the remarkable calibre of doctors working in the public health sector.

Full Sunday Tribune report

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