Doha, 3 June, 2020: Dr. Abdulaziz Al Khulaifi, cardiac surgeon and Chairman of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Department at Hamad Medical Corporation's (HMC) Heart Hospital says the story of a 43-year-old resident who is currently recovering from life-saving heart surgery performed earlier this week is a cautionary tale for anyone who may be experiencing symptoms of a heart attack and is delaying going to the hospital due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Al Khulaifi says since the coronavirus pandemic began, hospitals around the world have been admitting fewer heart attack patients. He says treatment for heart disease can rarely be delayed and he is assuring residents that Heart Hospital has protocols in place to protect patients and minimize their risk of exposure to COVID-19.
“Some patients are afraid of getting COVID-19 if they go to the hospital or are misunderstanding directives about avoiding health care that can be delayed. Since shortness of breath can be a symptom of both a heart attack and COVID-19, some patients with heart problems may also be self-isolating at home, assuming they have the virus and hoping it will pass. This can be extremely dangerous, particularly if they are in fact having a heart attack,” said Dr. Al Khulaifi.
“In the case of this patent, he had been having chest pain for about a week before coming to the hospital. We arranged for a coronary angiogram, a procedure that uses X-ray imaging to see the heart’s blood vessels, so we could determine if there was a restriction in blood flow going to the heart. We also arranged for him to be tested for COVID-19, as part of our standard care practice. The COVID-19 test came back positive and the angiogram showed that he had three-vessel disease (3VD),” said Dr. Al Khulaifi.
Three-vessel disease (3VD) is the most severe form of coronary atherosclerosis. 3VD means the three big vessels, the left anterior descending, right coronary, and circumflex arteries have blockages. Dr. Al Khulaifi says as part of Heart Hospital’s COVID-19 protocol, a virtual meeting of the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) was held to plan the best course of treatment for the patient.
“The team concluded that timely open-heart surgery was the best option for this patient. The patient was stabilized and subsequently prepared for surgery and the relevant departments and sections were informed of his coronavirus diagnosis to ensure that all necessary precautions were in place to help minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread, both during the surgery and during his follow-up care and recovery. The operation was performed earlier this week and the patient is currently recovering in isolation,” said Dr. Al Khulaifi.
Dr. Al Khulaifi says the MDT, which included Dr. Shady Ashraf, Dr. Hafeez Lone, Dr. Bassam Shouman, Dr. Suraj Sudarsanan, Mr. Rami Ahmad, Ms. Abeer Mahmoud, Ms. Khadejeh Mohammed, Ms. Shiji Varghese, Ms. Sujatha Shettra, and Ms. Julie Paul, played an important role in helping to ensure this story will have a happy ending. He says it is essential that any patient who is having chest pains does not delay getting help.
“We’ve been telling patients for years, ‘if you are having chest pain, come to the emergency department or call for an ambulance’. The COVID-19 message has been ‘stay home’. This does not mean stay at home if you are having symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, for example, but we understand why some patients are confused. We hope the story of this patient will help people understand that symptoms of a heart attack cannot be ignored and that hospitals have very strict protocols in place to mitigate the patients’ risk of exposure to COVID-19 and to ensure they can receive care in a safe environment,” said Dr. Al Khulaifi.