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In a Heartbeat: 24-Hour Specialist team at the ready

Dr. Vitoon Pitiguagool, deputy director of cardio-thoracic surgery at Bangkok Heart Hospital, tells of a nearly fatal case-and the immediate treatment that saved the patient.

One of Thailand’s most respected cardio-thoracic surgeons is Dr. Vitoon Pitiguagool, who excels in this highly specialized and demanding field. At Bangkok Heart Hospital, he not only puts 25 years of experience to use in treating his parents, he also serves as deputy director of cardio-thoracic surgery.

“Each year many patients with various types of cardiovascular disease come to Bangkok Heart Hospital for care and treatment,” Dr. Vitoon says. “Some of them suffer from an Aortic Aneurysm, which leads to a cardiovascular health crisis. Some of them suffer from Dissecting Aortic Aneurysm, an even more serious condition in which there is a tear in the wall of the major artery carrying blood out of the heart. To most people, this cardiovascular condition might sound unfamiliar. But it can be fatal if it is not diagnosed and treated promptly.”

An unusual case

Incidence Statistics show that over half of Dissecting Aortic Aneurysm occur in adults 60-70 years old. “However, a 29-year-old Thai male was referred to our institution. This patient was admitted urgently to a hospital in Nakhon Pathom province near Bangkok,” says Dr. Vitoon. “He was in a serious condition with signs of cardiovascular and blood vessel problems. Because of many factors, after cardiac CT scans, his doctor recommended a transfer to Bangkok Heart Hospital that very night.” Minutes Between Life and Death.

At this point, Bangkok Heart Hospital took over, as the hospital has full teams of specialists and surgeons on standby  24 hours a day. Doctors noted he presented with a complex set of symptoms. His previous medical and family history did not appear to contribute to his present condition.

However, he was overweight and felt pressure in his chest. He was short of breath, felt exhausted, had high blood pressure and back pain, and his skin took on a bluish tinge due to insufficient blood oxygen. Oxygen levels had dropped under 90 percent.

“After a cardiac ultrasound, we found he had a Dissecting Aortic Aneurysm. The condition was causing heart problems and issues with blood vessels that supply blood to the brain, legs, and arms. Serious valvular heart diseases were also found.

“Even though it was nighttime, within two hours our immediate responsive acute care team members and support units were active and ready to operate on site,” recalls Dr. Vitoon.

Following the operation, including heart valve replacement surgery, change of aortic arch, aortic root and physical therapy, the patient gradually recovered, and was able to return to work and live a normal, active life.

Healthy living is the best medicine

Dr. Vitoon concludes by saying, “Heart healthy living is the best medicine. At the same time, good healthcare is the best heart disease and disorder prevention strategy. Healthy lifestyle changes are essential. It is time to kick-start healthy habits. Eat foods that nourish your heart such as fish, fruit, and vegetables, which all have healthy cholesterol levels.”

He urged, “Follow any medical regimen strictly, for instance, if your doctor prescribes medication to lower hypertension. Manage stress and work out on a regular basis. And don’t forget to go to your doctor for health checkups. Health is wealth. Don’t wait until it’s too late to be treated.”