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Texas A&M performs rare canine heart surgery


College Station, Texas — The second-ever attempt to perform cardiac catheterization on a dog was successful at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS — The second-ever attempt to perform cardiac catheterization on a dog was successful at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Veterinarians prepare for the atrial septal defect repair by organizing the equipment. The $4,000 titanium alloy Amplatzer septal occluder (inset) seals the hole in the dog's heart and was donated by AGA Medical, a Minnesota company.

Veterinary cardiologists teamed up with human cardiologists, who taught the non-invasive procedure that they completed more than 300 times on humans, to fix a hole in the heart of a Poodle.

"These rare procedures improve our knowledge a little more each time," says Dr. Sonya Gordon, a cardiologist in the Small Animal Hospital who assisted with the heart repair. "We hope eventually this can become as routine for dogs as it is for humans."

Four more dogs related to the most recent patient have similar heart defects.

The non-invasive catheter-based atrial septal defect occlusion was performed using a device similar to the one used in human procedures. The first U.S. surgery was believed to have been conducted at Purdue University within the past year, university officials say.

The 5-year-old patient was a standard Poodle, born with a heart defect called an atrial septal defect (ASD), an opening between the heart's two upper chambers. This defect can lead to respiratory difficulty, exercise intolerance and eventually early death.

"We learned a lot from this initial procedure," Gordon says. "We will make changes in the equipment for the next dog's surgery, but we have a good amount of knowledge behind us and know what to expect."

Dr. Matthew Miller, a cardiologist at the hospital, also assisted in the surgery.

Veterinarians inserted a catheter through a vein in the dog's back leg and guided it to the defect in the heart where a double-button shaped device was deployed. The hand-made device, called an Amplatzer septal occluder, seals the hole in the dog's heart. The occluder, made of titanium alloy, was donated by AGA Medical, a Minnesota company, and costs about $4,000.

Dr. Ronald Grifka, who has performed the procedure hundreds of times at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, said that a dog's heart is about the same size as that of a small child, making his expertise vital, Gordon says.

The procedure took about six hours to complete, and the dog went home the day after the repair.

At presstime, veterinarians were preparing to perform another atrial septal defect occlusion.

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