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Published June 22, 2011, 09:10 PM

First-ever Surgery Done at Altru a Milestone For Neonatal Care

A successful first-ever surgery done on a premature infant means big things for the future of patient care at Altru Health System in Grand Forks.

A successful first-ever surgery done on a premature infant means big things for the future of patient care at Altru Health System in Grand Forks.

A type of heart surgery done in the neonatal intensive care unit, not an operating room, could help future cases stay right here in the region.

Kyson Keja, born premature at just 30 weeks, is recovering from a big surgery.

He was born with a heart defect called patent ductus arteriosus, an opening in his heart limiting blood flow to his lungs. It's something all of us had at one point.

"Inside mommy's tummy is different from outside. Inside, the lungs don't have to work," Altru neonatologist Dr. Durga Panda said.

Fixing this required a surgery called patent ductus arteriosus ligation surgery. It was the first-ever surgery to be done in the neonatal intensive care unit at Altru. This is done all the time at bigger hospitals like Mayo, but this successful first is a milestone for Altru and the region and important for three pound Kyson.

"You are talking about doing surgeries on things that are thread-sized. You don't expect it to be easy. Very fragile and very small," Panda said.

"We had to make a small incision on the left side of the chest. We had to close the artery," heart surgeon Dr. Barry Bjorgaard said.

Normal recovery for babies is two to five days. Since Kyson was a premie, it will take a bit longer.

After a year of preparing, this is a big success for Altru and patient care.

"If we can do it here, it is good for the parent along with the baby. If it's done here it will be convenient and helpful for the patient," anesthesiologist Dr. Bapanaiah Penugorda said.

"The goal is to have all those things done very much locally," Panda said.

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