The Healer’s Journal: A Unique choice of pursuing Pediatric Cardiology
July 10, 2022 | Contributed by Dr Chinnaswamy Reddy
Congenital Heart Diseases (CHDs) are one of the most common birth defects, responsible for nearly one-third of all congenital birth defects. The birth prevalence of CHD is reported to be 8-10/1000 live births. One-fifth of these babies have critical heart disease requiring early intervention Congenital Heart Disease treatment. Approximately 10% of infant mortality in India may be accounted for by this disease.
Advances in pediatric cardiology and cardiac surgery have made it possible to repair or palliate most of the CHDs including the complex ones. If access to screening, early diagnosis and treatment for congenital heart defects is available, over 90% of patients born with CHD survive to adult life with a good long-term outcome.
Most middle and low-income countries lack such advanced level of care for children with CHD. Considering a birth prevalence of 9/1000, the estimated number of children born with CHD every year in India is over 200,000, posing a tremendous challenge for the families, society, and the health care systems in India. And I have seen it firsthand being a pediatric surgeon.
I did MBBS from Vijayanagar Institute of Medical Sciences, Bellary Karnataka and passed in 1986. Then I completed my post-graduation from Bangalore Medical College in 1990 and a specialization in Cardiac Surgery from Sree Jayadeva Institute of Cardiology in 1993. Post-that I worked as a lecturer in Sree Jayadeva Institute of Cardiology. During this period, I realized that not many doctors were willing to exclusively focus on pediatric cardiac surgery. Most doctors were doing pediatric cardiac surgery but only on grown-up children. This kindled a lot of interest in pediatric cardiac surgery for me, because I felt inclined towards the cause of young children.
From then to now, I have performed more than 16,000 cardiac surgeries. I was at Narayana Health till 2021, then joined Rainbow Children’s Hospital in Hyderabad after that. It is extremely gratifying to see these children go home with a smile on their face, and their parents relieved that their child would have a chance at life after receiving Congenital Heart Disease treatment.
Passing the baton
Now that pediatric cardiac surgery has evolved over a period of time, there is an interest in the field to do even better. I feel proud that I’ve had the opportunity to train many young doctors, who are doing really impactful work in different parts of our country.
Not only that, rapid development in the technology from mid-20th century onwards has made it possible to do these open-heart operations for neonates and children of all age groups. Treatment for Congenital Heart Defects has made tremendous progress in India, which has made it possible to save as many lives.
Today, there are many adults on whom I had operated when they were neonates or in early childhood, living a normal life and capable of performing any activity, and excelling in many fields. In fact, a couple them are now software techie’s working in United States of America. It is an amazing and humbling experience to see a kid grow into adulthood who has had heart surgery early in life, excelling in studies and working in various fields like any other normal individual.
So, yes, congenital heart diseases are curable.
One baby had an anomalous origin left coronary artery from pulmonary artery (vessel carrying impure blood to lungs) instead of the aorta (vessel carrying pure blood to body). This child was operated at 3 weeks old and is now a 7-year-old leading a normal life involved in dancing, singing and playing.
Another boy, who had open heart surgery at 6 months age for closure of Ventricular Septal Defect is now a 10-year-old riding a horse, apart from playing guitar.
It is the advanced diagnosis, catheter interventions and surgical techniques, along with intensive post-operative management have made it possible to salvage many of these children with congenital heart defects. If access to screening, early diagnosis and treatment is available, over 90% of patients born with CHD survive to adult life with good long-term outcome.
Dr Chinnaswamy Reddy is a doctor at our partner hospital-Rainbow Children’s Heart Institute, Hyderabad. With over 22 years of experience, he is a highly qualified and skilled pediatric surgeon. Previously, he has been a professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, USA, and Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Bengaluru, Karnataka.