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Medical Tourism: Lisbon at Heart of Magnetic Surgery in Portugal

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Patients in Portugal have their hearts in the right place.

Thanks to an innovative navigation system and a spaghetti-looking-like catheter, doctors in Lisbon can magnetically pinpoint hard-to-reach areas of the heart that require treatment for both common and complex arrhythmia.

Cardiac electrophysiologists at the Heart Rhythm Center at Hospital da Luz have performed more than 1,000 ablation procedures to treat atrial fibrillation, which prevents the heart's upper and lower chambers from functioning in unison.

Dr. Pedro Adrago, who was instrumental in bringing the technology to Hospital da Luz, said the Stereotaxis Magnetic System, the first installed in Portugal, reduces the potential for distorting or damaging the heart wall during ablation procedures.

Cardiac electrophysiologists at the Heart Rhythm Center at Hospital da Luz have performed more than 1,000 ablation procedures to treat atrial fibrillation, which prevents the heart's upper and lower chambers from functioning in unison. Deviations from the heart's normal rhythm can be harmless or life-threatening.

Ablation typically involves long, flexible tubes or catheters inserted through a vein in the patient's groin and threaded to the heart. Here, radiofrequency energy is transmitted through the catheter to scar or destroy tissue in the heart that triggers an arrhythmia in other words, an irregular heartbeat.

The remote computer-controlled system at Hospital da Luz helps cardiac electrophysiologists magnetically guide the flexible catheter into affected areas of the heart. Doctors are able to less-invasively manipulate what would otherwise be a stiff catheter more precisely from a control room without having to stand during surgery for long hours beside a patient.

Magnetic Guidance

Computer-aided magnetic guidance and gentile catheter contact reduces the risk of patient bleeding or infection, damage to blood vessels or punctures to heart valves and, thus, shortens recovery times.

Dr. Adrag'o said the prevalence for atrial fibrillation, the most common cardiac arrhythmia, increases with age. Irregular heartbeats also increase the risk of stroke, congestive heart failure and death. The condition is also related to hypertension, diabetes, obesity and sleep apnea.

Healthcare providers at Hospital da Luz believe minimally invasive surgery will drive the future of all heart procedures. Magnetic navigation has assumed a prominent position for treating cardiac patients at the Heart Rhythm Center and is not only influencing positive outcomes and further investment in technology, but is enhancing the potential for Lisbon to attract international medical tourism patients as well.

Already, thousands of international medical tourism patients annually visit Hospital da Luz, where non Portuguese-speaking healthcare consumers feel welcome, secure and heard. To this end, the hospital has developed a comprehensive communication support program that assists international patients throughout the process from finding a doctor to discharge and follow up.

Lisbon Medical Tourism

Benefits of International Patient Services at Hospital da Luz include telephone services in English, medical document translation, support for securing lodging,, liaison with international insurers, consideration for diet and cultural practices, as well as an emergency triage questionnaire in 13 languages, to name a few examples.

Luz Saude, S.A., which operates Hospital da Luz within its network of 18 healthcare facilities in Portugal, is the largest private hospital group in Portugal. It receives almost 20,000 international patients annually, generating some 13 million in revenue for the private group. At least half of these patients are from Brazil and other Portuguese-speaking countries. Angolans represent more than two-thirds of the foreign clients from Portuguese-speaking nations.

The Lisbon Tourism Board, an arm of the Visitors and Convention Bureau charged to collaborate with the Medical Tourism Association to raise the profile of Europe's coolest city, anticipates an upshot in medical tourism will result in five percent annual increases in hotel receipts beginning this year until 2019.

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