A percentage of patients with congenital heart disease might need specialist operations in adulthood. The vast majority of these operations is carried out by the surgical team based at the Barts Heart Centre in East London.
Barts Heart Centre – UK’s largest heart centre
Barts Heart Centre is a brand new hospital, which was purpose-built to house all the different heart-related specialties. Many teams of surgeons and cardiologists that until recently were working at the Heart Hospital near Oxford Street, moved to Barts in May 2015.
There are several steps involved before adult patients go up for surgery in London:
- their cardiologist sends a referral letter which is a detailed summary of the heart condition the patient suffers from. This is usually accompanied by any tests, like CT scans, MRIs and echocardiograms which are saved on CDs
- the team of cardiologists and cardiac surgeons in London discuss the case and, if they agree to go ahead and offer an operation, they send letters back to the referring cardiologist
- there is a dedicated team of specialist nurses and administration people in London that organise the date with the operation: they often like to give the patient a call in advance to make sure that the offered dates are convenient for him/her
- usually the patient goes up to London a week before so as to have their pre-admission appointment and have the chance to discuss the operation with the surgeon
- after the operation, there is an average stay in hospital of 7-10 days – this depends on the progress of recovery of the patient
- finally the patient flies back to Malta and gets seen again by the referring cardiologist.
For more information on Barts Heart Centre, follow this link.
A first-hand experience
What follows is the first-hand experience of an adult patient in his 20s with a genetic condition that affected his aorta and heart valves and for which he needed 2 operations, the second one being carried out at Barts Heart Centre:
“After discussions with my cardiologist in Malta, I flew to London 7 days before the surgery date for pre-admission. I had a CT scan, blood tests, swab tests, echo and ECG done. We had a meeting with the surgeon who explained the surgery, risks and procedure step by step. I felt this was very important to know exactly what I was to expect during surgery and recovery. I was also given instructions on what medicines to stop before the operation.
I was admitted to hospital the night before surgery. I was given a room in the ward and had several meetings with my anaesthetist and doctors. The next morning they woke me up at around 6 in the morning, showered and shaved, and went into surgery at 8 am. At around 13:00 hrs, the surgeon met my relatives and explained everything and that everything went well with the surgery.
I woke up later in the evening in intensive care, and the day after I was moved to high dependency unit where, like in intensive care, I had a nurse taking care of me all the time.
After two days they moved me to the ward where they usually have 1 nurse looking after 2 – 4 patients since by then patients are already eating, walking and showering on their own. I stayed for a total of 8 days in hospital. After discharge I went back to the nuns in Victoria and stayed in London for another 7 days just to be sure that I was stable and to have some more test done before I fly back to Malta.
All went well and I flew back home where I was immediately in contact with the cardiologist. I was reviewed soon after to have some postoperative checks.
Over all, although having surgery is not the best thing in the world, I felt very safe and welcome all the time.
Regarding accommodation for the relatives, the nuns offer accommodation at €40-€50 a night per person, and during my stay in hospital, there is a building next to the hospital which is very convenient and more or less the same price.”