NC State, Duke team up, save dog with rare operation

Thursday, May 4, 2017
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Duke, State team up on a medical procedure that saves a dog's life

RALEIGH, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Medical professionals from Duke teamed up with veterinarians at NC State to help save a dog named Nekot, who was battling through heart complications.

It happened during a tough time in David Nance's life - his son left for college, his dog Tango died suddenly, and now his new dog, Nekot, was suffering from heart failure.

"It was very nerve-racking to know that his heart was beating like that, that fast, and just to still be a pup," Nance said.

"He wasn't able to efficiently pump blood forward to the other organs in his body, including his brain," said Dr. Brent Aona, a cardiology resident at NC State.

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Nance, a Wilmington resident, drove to NC State College of Veterinary Medicine for answers, and it turned out Nekot had an extra pathway in his heart that only complex surgery could fix.

"This is one of those 10,000 hours kind of thing where you need to have an enormous amount of training and experience," Dr. Bruce Keene, veterinary cardiologist at NCSU, said.

So Dr. Keene reached out to his friend Dr. Salim Idriss, director of pediatric electrophysiology at Duke University Hospital.

"He was a kind enough and lovely enough person to come down and help us," Keene said. "And to do that for free as well."

They operated by simulating the rapid heart rhythm, using a tiny camera to find the problem and a microwave laser to cut it out. But finding that problem in the first place was the hard part.

"Zeroing in on it with these tiny catheters and finding out microscopic piece of muscle," Dr. Idriss said, "and then doing the ablation, which is delivering electricity to put a little scar in there, and stop that muscle from working."

It's an operation he normally does on children.

"What's exciting is being able to do this, being able to help Nekot and other animals if we need to, but also being able to come over and work together," Idriss said.

Now Nekot's heart is growing nice and strong, and Nance couldn't be happier about the collaboration between the ACC schools.

"We were tickled to death," Nance said of the procedure. "It was like we couldn't wait. It was like Christmas - we couldn't wait for it to happen."

This sort of operation on a dog is so rare, researchers at NC State said it's the first time it's ever been performed at a university.

Clarification: a previous version of this story said this may have been the first procedure of its kind on the nation. It is not. Kathy Wright, DVM, holds this distinction.

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