Team from UNC provide minimally invasive procedures in Nicaragua

Team from UNC provide minimally invasive procedures in Nicaragua click to enlarge Members of the UNC team in León

UNC faculty and staff headed to León, Nicaragua from January 27 to February 3, 2018, continuing their commitment to bring leading edge, minimally invasive cardiac treatments to that country. The UNC team is working in collaboration with Project Health for León, a cardiology medical mission started by Drs. John Paar and Jack Rose from Raleigh and East Carolina University more than 25 years ago that evaluates approximately 275-300 cardiology patients during each trip

UNC Cardiology faculty Drs. Michael Yeung, Alan Hinderliter, Zehra Husain, and retired faculty member Dr. David Tate were members of the medical mission, along with Drs. Elman Frantz and Rick Hobbs and Cecile Noel, PA, nurses Ashley Smith and Caroline Robinson, and cardiac sonographers Ron Wofford and Ruben Centeno.

This year, members of the UNC team expanded the range of procedures provided. Last year they focused on performing life-saving mitral valvuloplasties along with Dr. John Vavalle, Medical Director of the Structural Heart Disease Program at UNC. This trip, with the help of Dr. Elman Frantz, they expanded the breadth of treatments with three additional types of cardiac procedures: patent ductus arteriosus closure, atrial septal defect closure, and balloon valvuloplasty for pulmonic valve stenosis.

All of these are minimally invasive, percutaneous procedures that had never been performed in León; some had never been performed in Nicaragua. Prior to the UNC team's arrival, the only options available for the patients were surgery, which is only provided once a year through PHL when the surgeons are available to go to Nicaragua. These minimally invasive procedures allowed for more patients to be treated definitively and additionally they were able to leave the hospital the next day.

The Nicaraguan community enthusiastically welcomed the UNC team, who received substantial attention from the Nicaraguan national media, with six television and three newspaper interviews. The physicians had the opportunity to meet again their patients from last year, including a young woman whose mitral valvuloplasty had enabled her to return to nursing school, her way of paying forward for the care that she had received.

UNC's commitment to Leon was featured last year in Vital Signs.

Dr. Yeung expressed gratitude to the Division of Cardiology, especially Division Chief Dr. Rick Stouffer, and donors Rita and Eric Bigham for making the medical missions possible.

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