Professor Luigi Martinelli says he was talking to the patient when he removed his heart from his chest
The first heart operation on a conscious patient took place in the San Martino hospital under the guidance of Professor Luigi Martinelli in Genoa on May 29. Doctors applied only local anesthesia in a way similar to during a hip prosthesis operation. The operation lasted for 45 minutes, La Repubblica reports.
Luigi Martinelli says he was talking to the patient when he removed his heart from his chest and held it in his hands.
An anesthesiologist observed the patient and offered him encouragement him during the operation and after, when the 72-year-old man attempted to get out of bed.
Professor Martinelli explains that doctors cut into the patient's chest with scalpels, squeezed the left lung so that it would shrink and enlarged the space between two ribs. Then the doctor took the heart out of the chest, removed a section of the pericardium where a stimulator was, and implanted an electrode into the left ventricle. The professor says the patient wasn’t able to see his heart, as it would have been too cruel to let him.
Surgeons say that the operation is relatively simple under conditions of complete anesthesia. Professor Martinelli mentioned numerous advantages of local anesthesia: there is no need for intubation (when a special tube is put into the larynx to avoid asphyxia); the patient can breath in a regular manner; he doesn't need to undergo intensive therapy; and the risk of infection is reduced.
At the same time, complete anesthesia entails the following negative aspects: a drop in arterial blood pressure, heavy breathing, and a long recovery that may sometimes lead to a coma or even a lethal outcome.
The operation held in Genoa represents considerable progress, cardiosurgery Professor Gianni Angelini at the University of Bristol says.
A similar operation with local anesthesia was performed at the University of Pittsburgh by Italian cardiosurgeon Marco Zenati two years ago.