Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) has celebrated the implantation of its 1000th cardiac device.
SKMC, managed by Cleveland Clinic, is part of the SEHA HealthSystem and owned and operated by Abu Dhabi Health Services Company PJSC (SEHA), which is responsible for the curative activities of all the public hospitals and clinics in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
The patient, a 49 year old female executive with heart failure that was limiting her quality of life, received a cardiac resynchronisation therapy defibrilator. The device is designed to improve symptoms as well as provide patients with protections against sudden death.
The heart has its own internal electrical system that controls the rate and rhythm of the heartbeat, and cardiac electrophysiology (EP) is a subspecialty within cardiology that focuses on heart rhythm conditions – including speed and regularity of its beats.
Consequences of irregular beating hearts can range from fainting through to sudden death, according to Dr. Alawi Alsheikh-Ali, Chair of Cardiac Sciences at SKMC and consultant electrophysiologist.
“There is no medicine that can make the heart beat faster, so the only solution is to implant a device that can help regulate and pace the heart,” Dr. Alsheikh-Ali said. “Pacemakers are like sophisticated mini computers, only a little larger than a one dirham coin, which sit under the skin and connect to the heart through one of the veins in the shoulder. A basic pacemaker is programmed not to allow the heart drop below a certain heart rate, and prevents fainting episodes, via small electrical impulses,” he added.
“This milestone is an extremely important one, and we are proud to have SKMC offer the only such service in the country to provide this specialist care,” Dr. Alsheikh-Ali said.
In addition to pacemakers, the EP program at SKMC implants defibrillators to help prevent life-threatening ventricular arrhythmia, which prevents the heart from pumping blood well and can cause instant death.
An implantable defibrillator has wires with electrodes that connect to the heart’s chambers, and monitor the heart’s rhythm. If it detects a life threatening rhythm in the ventricles, it will use electrical pulses to shock the heart into a normal rhythm, and can prevent sudden death according to Dr. Omer Elhag, consultant electrophysiologist at SKMC and head of the cardiac EP service.
In addition to implantation of devices, around half of the cardiac EP service’s procedures at SKMC are catheter ablations. During ablation, a doctor inserts a catheter into the heart, and a special machine delivers energy through the catheter to tiny areas of the heart muscle that cause abnormal heart rhythm, which ‘disconnects’ the pathway of the abnormal rhythm.
Catheter ablation generally has very high cure rate for cardiac arrhythmias, according to Dr. Alsheikh-Ali.
SKMC’s cardiac surgery program is the only one in the country that offers the EP service, and receives referrals from across Abu Dhabi, the UAE and even from neighbouring countries. The unique service is led by specialist Emirati electrophysiologists who understand the needs and requirements of the local population within Abu Dhabi. As many as 40% of the EP service’s patients are local, indicating the confidence that the facility continues to hold with the community.
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