You are here

First heart-lung transplantation in Belarus: patient's state & doctors' commentary

Belarusian surgeons have carried out the first heart-lung transplant surgery in Belarus. The life of a 32-year-old patient has been saved; he is already on the recovery.

The young man with a heart failure and lung damage had been on a waiting list since March. Surgeons carried out the needed surgery at the first opportunity.

The surgery took 9 hours of nonstop work.

The heroes of the day look shy in front of cameras. Sergey Spiridonov and Vladimir Andrushchuk are the two heart surgeons of the team of 20, headed by academician Mr Ostrovsky, who carried out the unique life-saving operation.

Vladimir Andrushchuk, heart surgeon of Republican Scientific and Practical Centre “Cardiology”:
Life expectancy of such a patient was no longer than 1-2 years more. He had had a heart failure since childhood; an irreversible change of lung blood vessels has developed against this background.

The 32-year-old patient from Vitebsk Region, named Aleksey, suffered from short breath even while walking small distances.

Though, these are the only facts the doctors know about their patient. That also says a lot about the difficulty of the surgery. The less surgeons know about the family or even the job of the patient, the more concentrated they are on the surgery itself.

The discharge date is still unknown either, but there is nothing special about it.

Sergey Spiridonov, heart surgeon of Republican Scientific and Practical Centre “Cardiology”:
This has been the first heart-lung transplantation conducted here, thus, we have no experience of post-operation treatment yet. The patient will be in hospital as long as needed until we make sure he can be discharged and has no need in constant and attentive observation by specialists.

The complexity of the operation also lied in the search for a suitable donor.

He had to be shorter than Aleksey, so as to let lungs straighten up. At the same time, the donor had to be heavier, so as the implanted heart can manage with its future load.

It has to be mentioned that Belarusian surgeons planned to carry out such a complex operation as early as about five years ago, 1-2 years after the first heart transplantation. But the complex preparation made doctors not haste so as to minimize the possible risks of the surgery.

Alexander Mrochek, Director of Republican Scientific and Practical Centre “Cardiology”:
Our doctors visited several foreign clinics, for example, last time it was Hannover where they got prepared for the surgery. It is one of the rarest surgeries in the world. Only about 20-30 transplantations of that kind are performed in Europe annually.

Each operation is someone's chance to live.

7 years ago, transplantation of a heart alone was a sensation in Belarus.

Today such operations are conducted regularly and get less media attention. Nevertheless, they are still of great significance both for Belarusian and foreign patients, such as Valery Zatula from Ukraine. He likes the treatment and appreciates the mastery of the surgeons much.

But the doctors will be able to comment on the final success of the transplantation only when the patient is discharged.

There is a long recuperation period after the transplantation, including a psychological one, when a patient has to get accustomed to the other man's organ in his body. But the doctors have no time to worry. There are 16 people more on the heart-lung transplantation waiting list. In other words, there are 16 lives more in the hands of Belarusian surgeons.

The surgeons at work