Cardiologists employ new device to repair dog's congenital heart defect


A 3-year-old Springer Spaniel has a checkup after receiving an Amplatzer occluder to correct a congenital heart defect.

Gainesville, Fla.-University of Florida (UF) veterinarians and medical doctors expect a 3-year-old Springer Spaniel to fully recover from rare heart surgery involving an implant recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human use in May.

The dog suffers from a congenital heart defect known as patent ductus arteriosus, or PDA. To alleviate the condition, UF veterinary and medical cardiologists implanted a device known as an Amplatzer occluder, which resembles a wire mesh basket designed to block an abnormal vessel and reroute blood through the heart in a normal manner. The procedure has been performed at just a handful of veterinary institutions for treatment in dogs, UF officials say.

"Two-thirds of dogs with PDAs will die of heart failure by 2 years of age," says Dr. Darcy Adin, a veterinarian who collaborated with UF pediatric cardiologist Dr. Joe Paolillo for the surgery. "When we see it, we fix it."

Taking a different route

Generally, veterinarians repair PDAs in one of two ways: through open chest surgery, during which the abnormal vessel is tied off, or through coil embolization, in which a catheter inserted into a leg artery releases a coil that attracts platelets, forming a clot within the vessel to block it from within, officials say.

The dog's PDA was too big for traditional methods, Adin says. The Amplatzer occluder is ideal for occluding large blood vessels, adds Paolillo, who convinced manufacturer AGA Medical to donate the device for the procedure.

"This device has been performed in animal patients in Europe for some time and has been used successfully in animal patients both at the University of Illinois and the University of Minnesota colleges of veterinary medicine," Adin says. "However, it's the first time we ever performed the procedure in animals here at UF."

Pros and cons

While Adin and Paolillo say the occluder is a reasonable alternative to surgery and costs roughly the same, price of the occluder itself tacks on more than $1,500 to the procedure.

It's also a complicated device to install, Adin says. "It requires both a right and a left heart catheterization, and there's always the risk of anesthesia. In a dog with a heart defect, the procedure takes about four hours."

Perhaps the biggest advantage is recovery time, she adds. Patients usually can return home after an overnight stay.

"The main advantage to the occluder as a treatment option is that the dog was discharged the next day without a chest scar and avoiding several days in the hospital," Adin says.

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