Youngest patient in Africa receives mechanical heart


A five-year-old child from KwaZulu-Natal has become the youngest patient in Africa to undergo a life-saving mechanical heart implantation at the Netcare Sunninghill Hospital. He will be heading home this week.

Mnotho Mndebele, who had been in a critical condition in intensive care for four consecutive months prior to the groundbreaking operation, had a heart ventricular assist device (HVAD) implanted at Maboneng Heart Institute at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital, to keep his severely damaged heart functioning.

Dr Viljee Jonker, a cardiothoracic surgeon who led the implantation team, said that he was delighted with Mnotho’s progress since the operation. According to Jonker, the child will return home to Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal this week.

“The multidisciplinary team at the hospital involved in his treatment and care is absolutely thrilled with his progress, particularly as he had been seriously ill for months before the operation, and his recovery has therefore taken some time,” said Jonker. “Now he has a new lease on life and is looking forward to going home to his family and friends.

“We fully expect him to be able to go to school and do everything a normal young boy would do. However, he will [need to] carry a small external battery pack for his implanted HVAD mechanical heart, either on a belt around his waist, or in a small backpack. The batteries for the mechanical heart will have to be recharged every eight hours or so.”

At five years of age and having weighed only some 17kg, Mnotho is the youngest patient in Africa, and one of the smallest and youngest in the world, to have had the benefit of a HVAD mechanical heart implant.

He suffered from dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a condition in which the left ventricle of the heart becomes enlarged and weakened and is no longer able to pump blood properly. Dr Jonker said the cause of DCM can often not be determined.

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“Mnotho had been on the heart transplant list but paediatric heart donations rarely become available. In his case, we opted to use the HVAD as a bridge to a future heart transplant.

“In reality, it is a lifeline until such time as a matching donor heart can be found for him to undergo a biological heart transplant.”


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Staff Reporter

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