Vikram Singh after surgery. (Sanjoy Ghosh)
A 13-year-old underwent a bypass surgery in Calcutta last month to clear blocks in arteries caused by a rare heart condition called Kawasaki Disease, which shows symptoms that could be misinterpreted as common flu.
Vikram Singh from Hind Motor in Hooghly district was diagnosed with the disease in which arteries supplying blood to the heart get clogged.
The symptoms showed up when he was eight. He was hospitalised but no cardiologist was consulted.
Cardiac surgeon Mrinalendu Das, who led the team that performed the operation at the RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences, said the disease had blocked two of the Class IX student’s coronary arteries while 90 per cent blockage was detected in the third.
“Almost no blood was reaching Vikram’s heart when he came to us last month. He was short of breath and got tired after the slightest of exertions,” he said.
Surgeons decided to conduct immediate coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), or bypass surgery, of all three arteries to improve blood flow to the heart muscles.
Cardiologists said Vikram’s condition was rare because only 0.5 per cent of young patients suffer from “triple vessel disease”, called so when all three coronary arteries are affected.
Kawasaki Disease affects about three per cent children, usually manifesting between four and six years of age.
The symptoms are prolonged high fever accompanied by intermittent bouts of rashes and red eyes.
Doctors say Kawasaki Disease does give indications but most parents are unable to recognise these and seek specialist help. Not only parents, even some general physicians miss the telltale signals.
If detected early, it can be cured with medication before the arteries get affected.
If a child suffers from constant sore throat accompanied by fever, parents should consult a cardiologist because the symptoms point to onset of rheumatic heart disease.
Cardiothoracic surgeon Kunal Sarkar recalled how a seven-year-old student of a south Calcutta school collapsed at the basketball court in 2004. “Such children feel exhausted because of the restricted supply of fresh blood to the body,” said Sarkar, who had performed bypass surgery on the girl.