Historic heart by-pass operation for dog

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The Independent Online
A RED setter called Reg was back to his energetic best yesterday, blissfully unaware that he appears to have made a minor piece of medical history.

Reg, who suffered from a heart defect vets said would kill him, owes his life to a paediatric cardiologist and the first keyhole heart bypass surgery of its type on a dog. Kevin Walsh, the cardiologist,was called in from the Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool by vets who concluded Reg's heart murmur was similar to the hole-in-the-heart condition routinely cured in children.

Dr Walsh set to work on a 70-minute operation of a kind only tried out on humans, feeding a hollow piece of surgical steel wire towards Reg's heart from an incision in his left hind leg.

The wire was guided for more than two feet through the intricate network of veins to the heart (the route to a dog's heart is slightly different to a child's). Then an expanding coil stopper was fed through to the heart, springing open to block the life-threatening hole.

"We have been trying to find ways of fixing the coil implants," said Nicky King, of Liverpool University's Small Animal Hospital, which called in Dr Walsh. "The device we were using has been developed by the children's hospital and this is its first use on animals. In the past we would have had to have made a big hole and physically tie off the valve. This is very painful and dogs were dying in surgery."

Though heart valve complications can be a problem with red setters, Reg's owner, Mike Lewis, of Ormskirk in Lancashire, said his dog's energetic outlook on life made the gloomy diagnosis a shock.

"We have had Reg since he was a few weeks old. My sons were close to tears, especially my five-year-old. The two are inseparable. Now Reg is back to his energetic self," he said.