Heart Failure Surgery: What We Can Do Now in the Philippines

Written by Emir Sakar

One of the qualities of a developed country is the number of healthy older people in its population. Countries like U.S.A., Japan, and Germany have a large number of healthy older people because of their effective and advanced healthcare system. Unfortunately, the Philippines still hasn’t reached that stage of development yet.

Last April 24, 2017, I attended the Healthcare and Wellness Committee Meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines at the AmCham Hall in Makati City. One of the guest speakers was Dr. Ramon I. Diaz Jr., a thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon at the Makati Medical Center. Dr. Diaz spoke about the topic “Heart Failure Surgery: What We Can Do Now in the Philippines.”

As we all know, the heart is the engine of our body; if it does not pump blood, it would cause our organs to stop working and, eventually, die. Generally, the causes of heart failure are coronary artery disease and heart attacks, hypertension, cardiomyopathy (which may be due to various causes like infections, alcohol abuse, toxic effects of drugs, and genetics), myocarditis, congenital heart defects, arrhythmias, and other causes. So, what can we do to protect our heart against various kinds of diseases and prevent it from failing? What can we do now in Philippines?

First and foremost, prevention and cure involve lifestyle change. According to scientific research, a 45-minute to 1-hour workout can reduce your chances of having any kind of heart disease by almost 40 percent; it also increases your heart capacity. Treatments involve the use of a combination of medications, electrical therapies, bypass or valvular surgery, implantable devices, heart transplantation, or a combination of all of these treatments.

Surgical procedures for heart disease are so vital and, sometimes, even though the mortality risk involved is high, doctors take that risk to keep their patients alive. Surgeries like coronary artery bypass surgery and heart valve surgery are the most common ones, which require extensive expertise and specialization. In some cases, doctors also use mechanical circulatory support, temporary mechanical support, extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), and long term mechanical support in order to stabilize and maintain biological values of patients. In recent years, the invention of the Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), also known as “HeartMate,” allows patients to do everything — except swimming — after undergoing heart surgery. This device is also being used in the Philippines now.

One of the biggest challenges involving heart surgeries, and heart disease in general, is the cost. This applies not only to the Philippines, but to most developing countries all over the world. This is the reason why many companies in the healthcare industry spend a lot of their resources for research and development in order to invent and produce cost-effective devices, machines, and medication for patients who are suffering from heart disease.

To further assist in increasing the quality of life for people in the Philippines, I believe that the government should allocate more budget for the country’s healthcare system and enforce regulations to provide incentives to those serving in the Philippine healthcare industry.

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About the author:

Emir is a business development associate of Staffbuilders Asia, a division of John Clements Consultants.