Cardiothoracic surgical experience in Ghana

Mark Tettey, Martin Tamatey, Frank Edwin

Abstract

Ghana is one of the few low-to-middle-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa able to consistently sustain a cardiothoracic program with locally trained staff for more than two decades. Cardiothoracic surgery practice in Ghana started in 1964 but faltered from a combination of political and the economic problems. In 1989, Dr. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, a Ghanaian cardiothoracic surgeon trained in Hannover, rekindled interest in cardiothoracic surgery and in establishing a National Cardiothoracic Centre. His vision and leadership has brought cardiothoracic surgery practice in Ghana to its current high level. As a result, the medical landscape of what is achievable locally in both pediatric and adult patients has changed substantially: outbound medical travel that used to be common among Ghanaian cardiovascular patients has been reduced drastically. Ghana’s National Cardiothoracic Center (NCTC), the only tertiary center in the country for cardiothoracic surgical pathology manages all such patients that were previously referred abroad. The NCTC has become a medical/surgical hub in the West African sub-region providing service, training, and research opportunities to neighboring countries. The Centre is accredited by the West African College of Surgeons as a center of excellence for training specialists in cardiothoracic surgery. Expectedly, practicing cardiothoracic surgery in such a resource-poor setting has peculiar challenges. This review focuses on the history, practice, successes, and challenges of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery in Ghana.