Heart surgeons in Guyana use cow tissue to reconstruct patient’s heart

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 July 2023, 17:51 by Denis Chabrol

Dexter George after surgery

The Caribbean Heart Institute’s (CHI) team led by CEO and Guyanese born heart surgeon Dr. Gary Stephens, successfully conducted an open-heart surgery utilising cow tissue to reconstruct a patient’s heart, the institution said Tuesday.

“This procedure is the first-ever open heart surgery of its kind, to be performed in the country,” CHI added.

CHI explained that the life-saving surgery, conducted on 24-year-old Dexter George, involved the complete removal of a cardiac tumour, partial removal of the right atrium, and the utilisation of bovine pericardium, a tissue derived from a cow’s heart, for the reconstruction of the damaged right atrium.

According to Dr. Stephens, “the procedure challenged the conventional understanding of the heart’s resilience, illustrating that substantial portions of the heart can be removed with positive outcomes”. He added, “this remarkable feat could pave the way for more aggressive approaches in similar cases, pushing beyond traditional boundaries”

Dexter had been diagnosed with a severe cardiac condition earlier this year. A small lesion in the right atrium, initially believed to be a blood clot, rapidly grew into a massive tumour over the course of nine months. The tumour compromised heart function, and severely affected his daily life., CHI said.

Dr. Gary Stephens, Chief Executive Officer – Caribbean Heart Institute

“Given the advanced stage of the tumour, the surgical team initially had limited options. However, they proposed utilising tissue derived from the lining of a cow’s heart to reconstruct the damaged right atrium. Despite the chances of success being less than 1%, Dexter and his family demonstrated immense courage and consented to undergo the procedure,” CHI said.

Since undergoing surgery on June 22, 2023, CHI said Dexter has exhibited remarkable improvement. According to Dexter, “Physically I get a little pain but I am happy, I know I haven’t fully recovered as yet but I know I will get there soon, I am just trying to push myself with my exercises so I can be okay.” Dexter also expressed gratitude for the surgical team’s efforts and remains hopeful for a complete recovery.

The Caribbean Heart Institute, located within the Georgetown Public Hospital, continues to be at the forefront of cardiovascular care and research. To date, the institute has seen and treated approximately 25,000 patients with various heart ailments.