Nigeria’s Twin Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratories

A Catheretisation Laboratory
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By Salisu Na’inna Dambatta

A report in the Nigerian Journal of Cardiology in 2021 indicates  that,  heart or  cardio vascular  diseases involving the heart and blood vessels, particularly obesity-induced hypertension,  are rampaging among the youth in the country. 

Cardiologists or medical doctors who specialised in the treatment of heart diseases in the country, including hypertension and heart attck,  need  certain vital specialised  equipment to treat their patients timely and  effectively. One of the facilities they urgently need is  Catheretisation Laboratory (Cath Lab).

 A  Cardiac Consultant Surgeon at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH), Professor Kamilu Musa Karaye   indicates that,  Cardiac Catheterisation laboratories are specialized  advanced medical technology facilities used for diagnosing and treating heart conditions. These laboratories have equipment such as X-ray machines, ultrasound devices and several  other diagnostic tools.

The tools in  cardiac catheterisation laboratories can also be used in various non-invasive or minimally invasive procedures such as coronary angiography, angioplasty or widening narrowed or blocked blood vessels and stent implantation. Stent implantation is done to keep blood vessels open. Beside using the Cath Lab to detect and treat the over 30 distinct types of heart diseases,  surgeons  use them for other interventional procedures like valve repair or replacement.

Still on what a Cath Lab is, medical Internet sites described it  thus, “A Cath Lab is a specialty laboratory  equipment for imaging of coronary and blood vessels in the body. Apart from displaying on the monitor, images  can be seen in 360° in details and  total clarity.  This enable doctors  to see the images from many  perspectives. The clarity leads to high precision in diagnosing. A catheterisation Laboratory also enabled surgeons to conduct  minimally invasive tests and procedures  in diagonising  and treating  cardiovascular diseases involving the heart and blood vessels.”

The critical role Cath Lab  plays in the treatment of cardiovascular  heart diseases and blood vessels complications makes it a vital tool for medical doctors, especially cardiac and thoracic surgeons, the super  specialists who  operate on the heart, lungs, esophagus, major blood vessels inside the chest and  the bony structures and tissues that form and support the chest cavity.

In other words, a Cath Lab  is a  one-stop facility used in proceedures to detect, identify and finally treat heart diseases.  But in the whole of Nigeria, there are only two  catheretisation laboratories, one in a  private hospital in Lagos, and the other at the State House Clinic, Abuja.  Both are obviously grossly inadequate for the country’s large population.

The two Cath Labs are  probably inaccesible to most  patients of cardio vascular and blood vessels diseases. They may  not have the financial wherewithal to afford the  services available at  the private one.  The other one in the State House Clinic is provided to basically serve the top echelons of the country’ s political leadership.

Data from various sources indicate that Nigeria is one of the countries that suffer high death rates from various heart diseases. Professor Kamilu Musa Karaye, the  professor of Cardiology who teaches and conducts research at the Bayero University Kano,  and the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital,  revealed  that Kano state has one of the highest rates of death from heart diseases. Such diseases are widely prevalent in Northen Nigeria. So obviously cardiac catheretisation laboratories are  urgently needed to assist cardiologists in diagnosing and treating the large number of patients before it is too late.

The  two-Cath Lab status of  Nigeria is suprising because the first very complicated open heart surgery was conducted in 1974, evidence of the availability of competent Cardiologists and associated personnel to make it a routine activity.  It is astonishing that none of   the  22 public University Teaching Hospitals, 20 Federal Medical Centres and 17 Specialist Hospitals in the country has a catheretisation laboratory. Although  the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital,  which serves a huge population and one or two more of the federal Teaching Hospitals are working hard to have one each, as of now that is just an aspiration.

Surprisingly, the  price for Cath Lab  starts from $200,000 for the most basic with few tools   to $3-$6 million  for the most advanced version that has  sophisticated tools.  The Federal Government and some philanthropists can procure Cath Labs for some of  the Teaching Hospitals and Federal Medical Centres in the country. Health-care businesses can also invest in Catheretisation Laboratories. Doing so will help cardiologists in doing their job faster and with greater accuracy, thereby saving precious lives. It will also contribute in minimising foreign  medical tourism.

Salisu Na’inna Dambatta is an advocate for Health Journalism


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