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Townsville surgeons to bring revolutionary open-heart surgery to hospitals world wide

Published:  21 July 2021

Footage of Townsville surgeons closing the chest of open-heart surgery patients with titanium plates and screws will form an instruction manual for hospitals around the world to adopt the technique.

This year, cardiothoracic surgeons Professor Jai Raman and Dr Pankaj Saxena began the new technique to close the chest cavity of people undergoing heart surgery at Townsville University Hospital.

Professor Raman and Dr Saxena have been invited to submit an instructional video and ‘how-to’ guide to the Operative Techniques in Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery Journal.

This international journal has members in 41 countries and is focused on teaching how to perform new and cutting-edge techniques.

Professor Raman, a visiting medical officer at Townsville University Hospital, is a pioneer of the technique that has proven benefits in the recovery of open-heart surgery patients.

“This sort of plating has been a common technique in orthopaedic procedures such as knee and hip reconstructions for many years but is relatively new for open heart surgery,” he said.

“Cardiothoracic surgeons are specially trained in operating on the heart. Securing plates and screws into bone is something that is quite new to our surgical specialty.

“It is really significant for a regional hospital to be leading the way in teaching hospitals around the world how to deliver best-practice heart surgery.”

Traditionally, heart surgery patients had six intertwined wires inserted to hold the chest cavity together; however, the wires could shift or break down over time leading to an increased risk of infection and slower recovery times.

“In some cases, the wires can cut through the bone and in other cases it doesn’t completely stabilise the bone. This can delay a patient’s recovery and increase the risk of post-operative infection,” Professor Raman said.

“Using the plating provides a much more secure base for the chest cavity. Research has proven that this method improves recovery time for patients and reduces that risk of infection.”

Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Pankaj Saxena said about 50 high-risk cardiothoracic patients had received treatment using this method since it was adopted in North Queensland this year.

“This is such a new surgical technique that the international journal is still looking for evidence from new tertiary hospitals who use sternum plating,” he said.

“Major heart surgery is just that, major, and anything that we can do to improve recovery and reduce pain and the risk of post-operative complications is great news for our community.

“Professor Raman was a pioneer in designing the equipment and surgical technique and it is a brilliant asset to our community to have his expertise available in North Queensland.”

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