Dog’s 8,000-mile round trip for UK surgery

A US doctor has made an 8,000-mile round trip to get life-saving heart surgery for his cockapoo at a Cambridgeshire referral center.

Jeffrey Bernfield, a specialist in diagnostic radiology, flew 12-year-old Hula from Chicago, Illinois to Dick White Referrals (DWR) for specialist heart surgery.

Hula was suffering from a severe case of myxomatous mitral valve disease and had a severely enlarged heart.

Stopping heart

Dr Bernfield’s research had highlighted the Linnaeus-owned practice as one of the few veterinary clinics in the world capable of performing an operation that would involve stopping Hula’s heart.

DWR’s head of cardiac surgery Poppy Bristow – along with head of cardiology Anne Kurosawa and cardiology consultant Hayley McDonald – took on Hula’s case.

Dr Bristow said: “Mitral valve disease is a progressively degenerative condition that affects a lot of middle-aged and older dogs, and Hula was a very serious case.

“She had Stage C disease, so needed urgent and expert attention. The first challenge was to stop her heart while we repaired her failing mitral valve. ”

Cardiopulmonary bypass

Dr Bristow added: “To do this safely we put her under cardiopulmonary bypass, where a machine temporarily takes over the function of the heart and lungs during surgery.

“Only a handful of centers in the world are able to perform this type of surgery, and at DWR we are currently performing it two to three times a month, although we’re looking to increase this in the coming year.

“Surgery went very well, with four different specialties involved in ensuring such a successful outcome – soft tissue surgery, cardiology, anaesthesia, and emergency and critical care – plus our excellent nursing team.

“Happily, Hula is back home in Chicago now and doing very well. She has experienced hardly any residual leakage through her mitral valve and her heart is almost back to a normal size, having been extremely large prior to surgery. ”


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