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Russell Milligan
Saint Joseph Hospital 312-770-2225


Presence Saint Joseph Hospital – Chicago Performs First Heart Surgery Onsite on Preemie

Infant was born 14 Weeks Premature

Chicago, Ill. – Nov. 5, 2012 – A pediatric surgeon at Presence Saint Joseph Hospital - Chicago (PSJHC) recently performed the first patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) surgery – a heart procedure – on a 1-pound, 14-ounce baby who was born 14 weeks premature. The surgery was performed about three weeks after the baby’s birth.

This is the first time a pediatric surgeon performed this surgery onsite since the hospital was designated a Level III Perinatal Facility in 2011 by the Illinois Department of Public Health. As a Level III nursery, the hospital has the capabilities to care for high-risk mothers and premature infants, including babies born prematurely at 23 weeks and those who may require surgery. Prior to this designation, infants born at the hospital who needed this heart procedure were transferred either to a Perinatal Facility, the highest level, or a Level III nursery, the second highest level.

Srikumar Pillai“Everything went extremely smooth and the baby is doing well,” said pediatric surgeon Srikumar Pillai, M.D., PSJHC, (pictured at right) who has performed more than 30 PDAs to date. “We’re happy that the hospital has the technology and skilled staff available so we can perform these procedures in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and infants do not have to be transferred.” Transferring premature babies can be a traumatic experience for the infant and family.

Ismail Omar of Chicago’s north side was born prematurely at 26 weeks in September – weighing only 1 pound, 7 ounces. He had a heart murmur that wouldn’t clear up, was on a respirator to breathe and had fluid building up in his lungs. 

Omar needed heart surgery to close his ductus arteriosus, a blood vessel that normally closes soon after birth. This condition is more common in premature babies. Before birth, a fetus is not breathing and receives oxygenated blood through the placenta, so the blood does not need to circulate to the lungs. After birth, the vessel closes naturally and the lungs oxygenate the blood.  Because Omar’s ductus was still open, too much blood was being diverted into the lungs. Omar had been given medication twice to close the artery, but it didn’t work.

Dr. Pillai performed the 30-minute heart procedure, which included making an incision in the baby’s chest and clamping the baby’s ductus arteriosus closed. In addition to Dr. Pillai, the surgery team included pediatric anesthesiologist Reza Mohammad, M.D., PSJHC, and Ramakrishna Velamati, M.D. section chief, neonatology, PSJHC, who has monitored the baby since birth. The team included three nurses from the NICU and three from the operating room.  

Dr. Velamati“The baby is doing wonderful,” Dr. Velamati (pictured at right) said, “Five days after surgery the baby was taken off the respirator. He is gaining weight and now weighs 2 pounds, 12 ounces. He’ll probably be able to leave the hospital in three to four weeks.”

What started out to be a scary and stressful experience for the baby and family has turned into a positive health journey.

“Ismail is doing very well,” said his father, Abdullahi Ali, noting that they were very worried about the baby. “Dr. Pillai explained everything and said it would be an easy procedure, about 30 to 45 minutes. The surgery went well and we saw the baby several hours later.”

Ali said they didn’t expect to have a premature baby. He and his wife, Hana Omar, have three other children – ages 4, 2, and 1 who were all full-term. Two of those children were born at Saint Joseph Hospital. Once they learned more about the PDA procedure, Ali and Hana decided to move forward with surgery.

“We were happy with the surgeon and trust the hospital,” said Ali, noting they like how the hospital cares for children. “We are happy we made a good decision (about surgery).”

With the Level III designation, the hospital can now provide this PDA ligation, gastrointestinal and esophageal surgeries, and several other major surgical procedures. “The level of care provided at Saint Joseph Hospital is comparable to other academic medical centers in the area,” Dr. Velamati said.

About Presence Saint Joseph Hospital – Chicago (PSJHC)
PSJHC is a nationally ranked, award-winning teaching hospital serving Chicago’s lake shore communities. It’s home to many world-renowned physicians and advanced medical technologies. For more information, visit

About Provena Health – Resurrection Health Care, Now Joined as Presence Health
PSJHC is part of Presence Health, a family of Catholic, not-for profit, healthcare services providing advanced medical care and exceptional service with compassion and hope. With locations in Chicago and its collar counties, as well as in East-Central Illinois, it is the largest Catholic health provider in Illinois, encompassing 12 hospitals, 27 long term care and senior residential facilities, numerous outpatient services, clinics, home health services, hospice, private duty, and comprehensive Behavioral Health services. Presence Health is sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart, the Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary, the Sisters of the Holy Family, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and the Sisters of the Resurrection. Visit to learn more.  


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