30 March 2023

Willows in the West Midlands has launched a ground-breaking cardiology procedure for dogs only previously used in human healthcare.

The minimally invasive transeptal puncture (TSP) now being performed by our world-renowned cardiology team avoids opening the chest or heart and involves using minimally invasive techniques to pass a thin flexible tube from the right atrium through to the left-hand side of the heart.

Our pioneering team at Willows is one of only a few across Europe equipped to carry out the procedure, which aims to relieve the abnormal high pressures in the left atrium and hence reduce fluid within the lungs resulting from heart failure.

Typically, patients who undergo TSP, known as ‘beating-heart intervention’, can be discharged from hospital the day after surgery.

Fabio Sarcinella, an RCVS and European specialist in small animal cardiology here at Willows, said: “Early clinical evaluation of the TSP procedure in humans over the last few years has shown improved quality of life and reduced clinical signs in patients with heart failure.

“The procedure has also been associated with low-risk and a meaningful drop in left atrial pressure of the affected patients.”

An image of the Cardiology team assembled in an operating theatre looking at a screen.

Performed under general anaesthetic, the procedure itself involves making a small incision in the neck, allowing catheters to be guided into the heart through the jugular vein.

Catheters and needles are correctly placed within the right and left atrium by using fluoroscopic (live video-x-rays) and transoesophageal echocardiography (highly specialised ultrasound) guidance.

Fabio added: “As well as being minimally invasive, the improvement in heart chamber pressures via TSP often allows for a reduction in the dose of water tablets which are used to control the heart failure signs in the lungs. Lowering the dose reduces the risk of side effects related to these drugs such as kidney failure.”

TSP is most commonly used for left atrial decompression in dogs with heart failure and concurrent renal disease or that have advanced heart failure but continue to have symptoms despite optimal medical treatment.