Abu Dhabi - The hospital receives around 20-30 patients suffering from heart disease per month.
The UAE is set to make another historical breakthrough in the healthcare sector with the implantation of the first ‘Total Artificial Heart’ in the country. This device will help save patients suffering from heart failure, including those waiting in line for a donor heart transplant.
The UAE already made a historical milestone in December last year, with the first deceased donor heart transplant procedure.
“There are certain complexes for ‘global heart failure’ patients, one of which is waiting time, and sometimes it takes a year or even two years waiting for a suitable heart,” Dr Arif Al Nooryani, CEO and head of cardiology at Al Qasimi Hospital, Sharjah, told Khaleej Times.
“These patients are the candidates for the Total Artificial Heart (TAH), which works as a ‘bridging strategy’ for those waiting for a donor heart,” he added.
Dr Al Nooryani said the device will help save the lives of patients with heart failure, which globally affects more than 26 million people. “In the cases where the whole heart is affected, we suggest a heart transplant, but there are patients and indications where we can’t go straight forward with the heart transplant.” He stressed that dynamic complexes cause patients to wait a long period of time for a donor heart.
“Most of the organ transplant patients have to wait: it depends on their age and other criteria. Then, it is decided whether this patient is a good candidate for an organ transplant, before being placed on the list.
“TAH will be a bridging solution for patients waiting for a suitable heart donor.”
However, TAH not only works as a ‘bridging strategy,’ it also works as a ‘destination therapy’ for patients with chronic illnesses, which lead their life expectancy to be reduced dramatically.
Two years ago, Al Qasimi Hospital conducted the UAE’s first left ventricular assist device (LVAD) — which helps the left ventricle of the heart pump blood to the rest of the body. The hospital will conduct its first TAH procedure this year, although the date is yet to be announced.
Dr Al Nooryani said he believes the procedure will come as a major relief for heart failure patients, especially since heart disease cases are rising all round. “Heart failure is increasing globally, not only in the UAE, and the demand for such technologies is rising.”
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cardiovascular diseases have been attributed as the leading cause of deaths worldwide, with an estimation of 17.7 million deaths (31 per cent of total deaths).
“This is a major disease, which is affecting a large number of population, and we should help improve the quality of the patients’ lives. We shouldn’t keep this kind of technology away from them.”
Currently, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) is in the process of establishing a database of cardiovascular patients.
“No one knows how many patients will need TAH each year, until we can get the accurate information about the prevalence of the disease and the number of patients we have in the country.”
Dr Al Nooryani said the hospital receives around 20-30 patients suffering from heart disease per month.
There are around 50 hospitals offering cardiovascular service and treatment in the UAE, but it is not yet known how many of the hospitals will provide the new TAH procedure.
Heart disease on the riseAccording to the Department of Health — Abu Dhabi, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the Capital, accounting for 37 per cent of all fatalities in 2016, much ahead of cancer, which caused 15 per cent of all deaths.
Moreover, deaths from cardiovascular diseases have increased by 2 per cent since 2015 in Abu Dhabi, and the ‘Weqaya’ screening programme for Emiratis revealed that 71 per cent of those who were screened had at least one cardiovascular disease risk factor.
Also, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) revealed that almost 37 per cent of Emiratis between 35 and 70 years of age, suffer from hypertension and signs of heart disease.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 50 per cent of people in the Gulf Region who die due to cardiovascular diseases, do not live above the age of 60.
The prevalence of cardiovascular diseases is due to sedentary lifestyles and common risk factors, which includes hypertension, represents 28 per cent of the cases in the UAE.
How does TAH work...The Total Artificial Heart (TAH) has four mechanical valves that work similar to the heart valves to control blood flow and it replaces the lower chambers of the human heart. Once implanted in the body, the device is then connected to a power source outside of the body, which helps pump blood through the heart’s main artery to the rest of the body.