Training platform has surgeons talking

2019-10-08 06:01
Doctors who want to learn, observe or participate in interventional cardiac catheterisation can do so through, CathChat, an online teaching platform.

Doctors who want to learn, observe or participate in interventional cardiac catheterisation can do so through, CathChat, an online teaching platform.

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The catheterisation laboratory (cath labs) at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital brings heart treatment closer to Africa’s children through a new, innovative online learning and teaching platform.

Called CathChat, the cutting-edge platform enables cardiologists to learn and teach interventional catheterisation techniques in real-time from and to anywhere in the world.

Associate professor Rik De Decker, who leads Cath Labs, says although interventional cardiology is widely practised as a specialisation in the developed world, cardiologists in Africa are unable to easily access the knowledge required to specialise in cardiac catheterisation.

De Decker explains: “To learn, they need to travel internationally, which is expensive and often only provides a narrow understanding of one sub-specialisation. Interventional cardiology is also a rapidly growing field, with developing technologies and new devices coming on to the market all the time.”

The CathChat system was developed and first implemented in 2017. It was designed to be easily replicable at a relatively low cost. It requires digital cameras and sound, and an internet connection. It’s accessible to doctors who want to learn, observe or participate free of charge online.

Inside the cath lab, two X-ray machines (at the front and side of the patient), a cardiac ultrasound machine and haemodynamic pressure and electrocardiography (ECG) monitors, a video camera and a sensitive microphone transmit all internal and external data.

A “producer” monitors proceedings and facilitates the conversation between the online experts, audience and the theatre team.

According to De Decker, this is the only system of its kind in the world.

“We designed it specifically to build cath-ing (catheterisation) capability in Africa. The system is showing results, too. Our capacity to perform complex and corrective procedures has grown significantly. We now hope to foster this ability in other cath labs in Africa.”

De Decker says patient privacy is essential, so the procedures are completely anonymised, and viewers will not be able to identify the patient.

The laboratory use catheter-based procedures to treat children who have common and complex cardiac, vascular renal and lung conditions.

“Cath lab intervenes at three different stages of treating the most common heart defects. First is to monitor lung pressure before surgery; second is to look for and correct any residual defects after surgery and lastly, the most exciting, is when there has been no surgery, yet we can fix the problem,” says De Decker.

Seven potentially fatal common heart lesions are possibly correctable by interventional cardiac catheterisation. Part of the beauty of cath-ing is that these can be fixed without surgery or intensive care and with only two nights in hospital.

Cath lab conducts 23 different kinds of procedures, from pre-operative checks, repairs after surgery to procedures from scratch without needing surgery. However, it is separate from the surgical theatres. The hospital is now making provision for a new hybrid cath lab, where the cath-ing team and surgeons can work seamlessly to make the process more efficient.

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