Media Release

‘Heart-stopping’ Surgery from Clinical Programme Brings New Hope to Patients with Blood Clots in the Lungs

6 December 2018 – Mr Ong was first diagnosed with Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension (CTEPH), a disease of the blood vessels of the lungs caused by persistent blood clots, back in 2013. The 55-year-old had experienced bad coughing, shortness of breath, and a drastic drop in fitness levels. Mr Ong used to be an avid runner, and with the condition, he could only run for 200 metres and had to stop and take regular rests. He was then managed with medication to control his symptoms.

The introduction of the CTEPH programme in National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) gave a new lease of life to Mr Ong as he underwent Pulmonary Endarterectomy (PEA), an open-heart surgery which involves the heart coming to a total standstill, and is part of the multi-disciplinary programme.

“PEA is a curative but complex surgery, which is best undertaken by institutions with specially trained doctors and support staff, working closely as a team,” Asst Prof Victor Chao, Senior Consultant, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, NHCS.

An alternative treatment from the CTEPH programme is Balloon Pulmonary Angioplasty (BPA), a minimally invasive procedure for patients who are deemed unsuitable or high risk for PEA, due to distal disease (small vessel disease), advanced age or multiple comorbidities. These patients typically need to undergo a few rounds of BPA to fully treat their blockages. Medical therapy is also offered for patients who are not suitable for PEA and BPA, to prevent clot formation and lower their lung pressure.

“It is estimated that there are a few hundred CTEPH patients in Singapore. Due to the non-specific nature of symptoms and lack of awareness of the condition, many cases may go undiagnosed. It is important that we raise awareness of this condition so that more can be diagnosed and treated early,” said Assoc Prof Lim Soo Teik, Deputy Medical Director and Senior Consultant, Department of Cardiology, NHCS.

BPA and PEA options were previously not readily available in the region, resulting in one-third of such patients to succumb to this condition. This new clinical service is a collaboration between NHCS and Singapore General Hospital (SGH), which provides a full spectrum of care including diagnostic investigations, customised treatment options and follow-up care and rehabilitation. With the CTEPH programme, a new breath of life is given to patients like Mr Ong, allowing him to recover and resume his quality of life, and to be able to spend the upcoming festive season with loved ones.

About the National Heart Centre Singapore
The National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS, 新加坡国家心脏中心) is a 185-bed national and regional referral centre for cardiovascular diseases. A one-stop facility with the largest heart specialists group in Singapore, NHCS treats complex cases and sees the highest volume of heart patients locally.

Each year, the Centre handles over 120,000 outpatient consultations, 6,000 interventional and surgical procedures and 9,000 inpatients. Its outcomes for heart attack treatment, balloon angioplasty with stenting and coronary bypass surgery have been shown to be equivalent to international standards.

A pioneer and leader in cardiovascular care in Singapore and the region, NHCS is the first specialty heart centre in Singapore.

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