2 min read.Updated: 21 Aug 2020, 06:55 AM ISTSeethalakshmi S,Rahul Nandan
Over two lakh children in India are born with congenital heart disease (CHD) every year, and about 30,000 CHD surgeries are performed on children annually
The disruption in medical procedures since March has caused a large backlog of emergency cases and shortage of ICU beds
The covid-19 crisis has delayed heart surgeries for thousands of children across India. Doctors say there’s been a 70% reduction in the number of surgeries on children due to the disruption in hospitals since March.
In most hospitals, elective cardiac surgery was stopped and intensive care unit (ICU) resources were diverted toward covid care. Further, covid curbs on travel made it hard for patients to reach hospitals.
Over 200,000 children in India are born with congenital heart disease (CHD) every year, and about 30,000 CHD surgeries are performed on them annually.
The common problems among children are either a hole in the heart or narrowing of one of the main vessels. These need immediate surgical intervention, which, if delayed, can affect their lungs and hearts irreversibly. Defects like pulmonary atresia, critical coarctation, critical aortic stenosis and transposition of great arteries need surgery within hours to days of birth.
“If such conditions are treated at the right time, children are cured for life. Most paediatric cardiac centres are in select metro cities, and reaching there from distant smaller places has become extremely difficult due to covid restrictions," said Dr Neeraj Awasthy, in-charge of paediatric cardiology, Max Superspeciality Hospital, Saket, Delhi.
Renowned cardiac surgeon and chairman of Narayana Health Dr Devi Prasad Shetty said thousands of children in India have been waiting for heart surgery since March. “The disruption has been huge. Parents from rural areas are not coming due to the travel restrictions and financial hardships."
The disruption in medical procedures since March has caused a large backlog of emergency cases and shortage of ICU beds. Consequently, the waiting period has gone up. “In our hospitals, we would do 300 surgeries a month. Now it’s just 100. We do not know how many children are dying for want of timely treatment," said Dr M. Jayranganath, professor of paediatric cardiology at Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiology and senior consultant, Apollo Hospitals, Bengaluru.
Many children born with a hole in the heart require surgery within three months. But Dr Manvinder Singh Sachdev, senior consultant, paediatrics cardiology, Medanta Hospital, Gurugram, said he’s now seeing babies eight months and older still awaiting surgery.
“Owing to this delay, many children become inoperable and those who are still operable carry the risk of low outcomes post surgery," he said.
Mumbai’s Jupiter Hospital had to postpone two camps in rural areas of Maharashtra and they are unlikely to take place before December.
“Many children will not be diagnosed for heart conditions for nine months. About 70-80% of patients come from the rest of Maharashtra. Now we see only 20% of these patients," said Dr Srinivas L, interventional paediatric cardiologist, Jupiter Hospital, Thane (Mumbai).
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