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Pakistan among countries with high rate of heart disease

Pakistan, along with India, China and Indonesia contribute to about 50 percent of children born with heart diseases in the world. Dr Muneer Amanullah, Associate Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery and interim associate dean of Postgraduate Medical Education at AKU, said here on Monday.

“About 15,000 to 20,000 of these infants born in the country are said to have critical problems requiring surgery or intervention in the first year of life,” he informed.

“About 60,000 children, one in every 100 infants, born in Pakistan every year are born with cardiovascular disease resulting in the deaths of many babies without any diagnosis,” said the senior surgeon.

The internationally reported incidence of congenital heart disease (CHD) is 8 to 10 per 1,000 live births.

Dr Amanullah acknowledged that since most births in the country takes place in villages, remote areas or in ill-equipped basic health units, the true prevalence of CHD at birth is unknown and accurate data is not available.

He registered with deep concern that lack of awareness and inadequate diagnostic and treatment facilities compound the problem as many Pakistani CHD patients do not survive beyond their first few years.

Dr Amanullah said CHD occurs during the formation phase of the fetus that is in early stages of pregnancy, hence certain anomalies leading to the condition can be prevented through proper care towards vaccination, adequate intake of folic acid and iodine through foods or supplementation of mothers during pregnancy.

This may considerably help protect the babies against the defects particularly in the phase of heart formation, in particular context of blood flow through the heart to rest of the body, he elaborated.

The surgeon appreciated the civil society members to have come together over a game of golf supporting the Aga Khan university’s Mending Kids Hearts initiative.

He thanked them for arranging and participating in a fund-raising golf tournament and mentioned that many of the heart defects such as small hole in the heart, or missing or poorly formed parts of the heart could be life threatening and contribute to long-term disability.

Although congenital abnormalities may be the result of one or more factors genetic (including children born of a consanguineous or close relative marriage), infectious, nutritional or environmental factors yet it is often difficult to identify the exact cause.  Dr Amanullah said many of the CHD patients in the country present late, when complications may have already developed, increasing further to the mortality rate which is already high.  If diagnosed and treated in time, children with these conditions can lead a normal life, he said.

Hans Kedzierski, CEO, AKUH said the golf tournament could not have been possible without generous support of the community, volunteers, donors and sponsors.

There were said to be only a few hospitals in Pakistan that are able to perform surgeries on these young patients, including infants whose hearts are the size of a strawberry.

Each year, the congenital cardiac programme team at AKUH performs more than 400 pediatric cardiac procedures. It is the only programme in the country to be both accredited by Joint Commission International (JCI) and recognised by the International Quality Improvement Collaborative (IQIC), said Kedzierski.

APP. Pakistan among countries with high rate of heart disease. The Nation, January 31, 2017.

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