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Cape Town - A team of doctors made medical history in Cape Town this week by streaming live the implantation of an artificial valve through a vein without cutting open the chest of a 14-year-old boy.

It was the first time that an operation of this nature had been broadcast live.

Nearly 400 heart specialists attending the 6th World Congress of Paediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery conference under way at the Cape Town International Convention Centre until Friday, watched the procedure.

Gift Ihuhua, from Windhoek, Namibia, was born with pulmonary atresia, a condition in which the pulmonary valve does not form properly.

The pulmonary valve is an opening that regulates blood flow from the right ventricle to the lungs.


is “all smiles” and recovering at the Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital.

“At an early age he (Gift) had surgery using a homograph, which is a human tissue valve used by surgeons,” said Dr Stephan Brown, who performed the surgery with doctors Harold Pribut and Marc Gewilligand, from Belgium, in under two hours.

“The homograft was then replaced by a percutaneous valve. Unfortunately over time, the cells are killed off and it starts to leak.”

Brown said extensive preparation was done leading up to Gift’s procedure.

“We went through his groin with a 6mm catheter. The valve, which was sewn from a cow’s jugular vein, was sewn on to the stent and inserted.

“But, before the procedure, we had to ensure that the landing zone was stable. The first part of the surgery is the most difficult part,” he said.

Brown said the advantage of the procedure was that the patient remained stable afterward.

It also reduced the number and frequency of surgeries.


surgery was one of many heart operations at hospitals in South Africa and Europe watched by delegates during the conference this year.

One of the conference organisers, John Lawrenson, said live streaming of procedures was a “remarkable” training and teaching tool. - Cape Times