Dr Allam Alkowatli, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist and Chief of Cardiology at Emirates Hospital Jumeirah
Dubai: A 70-year-old Nigerian national came to the UAE to treat her heart condition, an atrioventricular (AV) block, at the Emirates Hospital Jumeirah.
Maria’s heart beats irregularly and much slower than usual. Her condition can cause loss of consciousness or complete collapse, and requires a dual chamber pacemaker, a small device that rests inside the upper chest and connects to the heart with special wires, where it operates steadily and silently.
When doctors in her home country advised an implant for Maria, she decided to travel to the UAE. “When Maria visited us for the first time, her reports indicated that her heart was struggling to send electrical signals between the upper and lower chambers of her heart. This may lead to sudden collapse of the patient and could cause significant detrimental effects and sometimes even death, if a pacemaker isn’t implanted immediately,” said Dr Allam Alkowatli, consultant interventional cardiologist and chief of Cardiology at Emirates Hospital Jumeirah.
He pointed out the chamber pacemaker, which is MRI compatible, allows patients to perform scans and MRIs in the future without any worry.
Around 10 per cent of people over the age of 70 have a pacemaker implanted, and approximately one million pacemakers are implanted annually, providing electrical stimulation to regulate a patient’s heartbeat. Conventional pacemakers are surgically placed under the skin of a patient’s chest, with wires or leads stretching from the shoulder vein and attaching to the heart. The cost of a pacemaker is higher than the average, but is covered under insurance and can last for 8-12 years.
Almost the size of a wrist watch, Dr Alkowatli and his team implanted the pacemaker connecting to Maria’s heart within an hour. She was kept under observation for 24 hours and was discharged the next day. “Lack of expertise when performing this surgery can be harmful and may lead to major complications, including lung puncture, significant bleeding, blood clots, wound infection, fluids around the heart and rarely death,” said Dr Alkowatli.
According to a research report, it was noted that the global medical tourism market is projected to display a growth represented by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.65 per cent during 2018-2023. In the past few years, the UAE has become a hub for world-class medical tourism, with Dubai ranking first in the Middle East due to its advanced treatment and facilities. “While pacemakers are opted for by several people to improve their life, scepticism surrounding this device is still very high. However, recent developments and advancements in technology have made the device so small and seamless, that there’s no bump in the chest and the patients can barely feel the pacemaker inside them,” explained Dr Alkowatli.