A team of doctors, led by head cardiologist Fareed Ali, have successfully done the Caribbean’s first-ever removal of a complex implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), otherwise known as a pacemaker.
In a release on Friday, the North Central Regional Health authority (NCHRA) said the high-risk procedure was done by a multidisciplinary team of doctors at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC), Mt Hope.
It said the team also included doctors specialised in chest, vessel, and general surgery, along with radiologists and anaesthesiologists.
In the statement, NCRHA CEO Davlin Thomas said the moment is historic for the region.
“This is a testimony of our commitment to excellence and our resolute dedication to ensuring that we provide our citizens with the highest quality standard of healthcare that matches the best worldwide.”
The statement explained that a ICD is a battery-powered device implanted under the skin to regulate the heartbeat in patients with abnormal heart rhythms. When it detects abnormal heartbeats, it shocks to the heart so that it return to its normal rhythm.
In the statement, Medical Chief of Staff of the EWMSC Dr Joanne Paul said there are only five specialists able to implant these devices, two of whom are based at the EWMSC.
“As difficult as it may be to insert, the procedure to remove this device poses an even greater challenge. So much so, that it has never been done in the Caribbean.”
In a phone interview with Newsday on Friday, Paul said the device is embedded in the heart and to remove it takes an entire team. She said in other countries, such as the US, there are special sensors for the removal, and the technique is so specialised, not every hospital in the US does the procedure.
Though there are special centres that do it all the time, she said in the past, patients from Trinidad and Tobago had to travel abroad to have pacemakers removed, but that will no longer be necessary.
Just as the US has specialised centres, she said, the NCRHA is trying to expand its capacity to become the centre for cardiac procedures in the country.
She said Ali has the equipment, the skill, and the team to perform the procedure, and is already scheduled to perform another soon.
In the future, after covid19 restrictions are limited, she said, it can consider making TT the medical tourism destination for the procedure in the region.
“It’s not all about TT, it’s about the Caribbean. It would be unethical of us to save it for us alone.
“Dr Ali is also a nice guy,” Paul joked. She said for him, perfecting this type of procedure, which will benefit many people, is his life’s purpose.