SA doctors perform landmark 'balloon' op on prem baby's lung


Doctors at Tygerberg Hospital managed to save a premature baby’s life after performing a balloon dilation procedure on his lungs.

It was the first time for the procedure to be performed on a premature baby in South Africa.

Wyatt Hermanus was born at the hospital on 24 March 2017 and weighed about 2kg. But soon afterwards he developed severe narrowing of one of his airways due to lung disease.

This caused air to become trapped in the tissue outside the tubes and air sacs of the lungs.

Head of Paediatric Pulmonology and Paediatric Intensive Care, Professor Pierre Goussard said in a statement that in order to save the baby’s life, the team needed to perform a balloon dilation.

“The technique involves using a catheter with an inflatable balloon to widen the lung. The widening of the lung would assist the patient in breathing better, which was crucial in order for the baby to survive.

“Under anaesthesia, a guidewire was inserted into the airway and then a balloon over the guidewire. A contrast was injected to see the length of the narrowing of the airway. A balloon was inflated to twice the normal car tyre pressure,” explained Goussard.

balloon dilation lung procedure Tygerberg Hospital
An X-ray image of Wyatt Hermanus' lungs before doctors performed the balloon dilation procedure. (Image supplied)

Dr Beth Engelbrecht, Head of the Western Province Department of Health said that technological advancements are critical markers of the academic proficiency of an academic environment.

“The Tygerberg/Stellenbosch University Team are to be commended for the advancement of medical science with ground-breaking developments,” said Engelbrecht.

The procedure was performed successfully and Wyatt was scheduled for a follow up bronchoscopy in June, where doctors examined his airways. More dilation may be required in the future, but right now, Wyatt’s lung has been saved.

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