Fri, Dec 27, 2002 - Page 4 News List

Surgeon makes heart plea

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

National Taiwan University Hospital appealed to the National Health Insurance Bureau yesterday to pay for the transcatheter closure of atrial septal defects (ASD), especially for children.

"The highly-advanced technique can help ASD patients repair certain cardiac defects, particularly younger ones without undergoing open-heart surgery," said Wang Jou-kou (王主科), the hospital's pediatric cardiologist.

The septum is the wall that separates the right and left sides of the heart. A hole in the wall between the two upper chambers of is called an atrial septal defect, or ASD.

ASD is one of the simplest forms of congenital heart disease. "It comprises about 10 percent of congenital heart disease cases," Wang said.

"However, usually ASD symptoms will not appear until middle age," Wang said. As a result, he said, it is difficult to discover whether children have ASD or not.

"Every year we conduct a round of heart checks for children in Taipei's primary schools," Wang said.

"Every year we discover up to 20 children who have ASD but had not previously been diagnosed with the disease," Wang said.

"All ASD closure devices require transesophageal echocardiographic guidance for optimal placement," Wang said, adding most procedures are performed under general anesthesia with transesophageal echocardiographic or fluoroscopic guidance.

At the press conference yesterday, Wang introduced the Amplatzer septal occluder, a device to repair ASD. It is a self-centering device that consists of two round disks made of Nitinol wire mesh and linked together by a short connecting waist.

Wang also compared traditional open-heart surgery with the transcatheter closure of an atrial septal defect. "Patients undertaking open-heart surgery will have scars on their chest. But the second technique creates no scars on the chest," said Wang.

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