The Royal Veterinary College has performed world-first surgery to correct a combination of congenital heart defects in a dog that needed a repair to its tricuspid valve and common atrium.

Lottie, an 11-month-old Labrador puppy was found to have a very loud heart murmur during a routine check before being spayed. 

An ultrasound revealed that she had several congenital defects. The two major ones were a malformation of her tricuspid valve and a very large defect of the common atrium.

Lottie was referred to the RVC’s cardiothoracic department where she underwent further ultrasound and a CT scan. The team at the RVC, which is led by Dan Brockman, Professor of Small Animal Surgery, had already performed several cutting-edge surgeries, including a world-first treatment to save the life of a dog born with a malformed tricuspid valve.

Repair of the tricuspid valve has only been performed a handful of times and has not been done at the same time as repair of a common atrium. 

Lottie’s owners decided to proceed with the operation, which was undertaken at the end of July. Lottie's heart was stopped for the procedure and her circulation maintained with a heart lung machine run by perfusionist Nigel Cross from Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Poppy Bristow, Fellow in Cardiothoracic Surgery at the RVC, said: "Altogether 10 people were involved in her operation and many more for her care before and after surgery, including veterinary specialists, veterinary nurses and veterinary specialists-in-training from surgery, cardiology, anaesthesia and emergency and critical care, as well as Lottie’s referring cardiologist and her local veterinary practice. 

"Lottie’s heart was stopped for an hour and a half, with the whole operation taking four hours. Her malformed tricuspid valve was released by cutting its abnormal attachments and artificial chords using Gore-Tex material were placed. Her single atrium was then divided into two using a large patch of Gore-Tex. Lottie has made a good recovery so far and was walking around and eating from the day after her surgery. She was discharged back to her owners after six days and has continued to thrive at home."

Professor Brockman added: "In Lottie, we had a young energetic dog with such a serious and life-limiting heart condition, that we were desperate to try and help her. The repair was complex but incorporated a combination of surgical manoeuvres that we had done before. With careful pre-operative planning and using our previous experience, we were able to design and execute the surgical treatment. It is still ‘early days’ but the initial signs suggest that Lottie is going to enjoy an excellent quality of life, following this operation and, we all hope, a normal lifespan."

Whilst you're here, take a moment to see our latest job opportunities for vet nurses.