Saving Young Lives



Dr. Illya Yemets – Ukrainian Children’s Cardiac Center (UCCC)

By Shereen Shabnam

During a recent visit to Ukraine, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Illya Yemets of the Ukrainian Children’s Cardiac Center (UCCC) who during a tour of the hospital also let us witness an open heart surgery and informed us that the hospital has one of the best success rates in the world for heart surgery on babies in their hospital.

Dr. Yemets graduated from Kyiv Medical University in 1979. In 1991 with support of Rotary International he trained as cardiothoracic resident at Sydney Children’s Hospital. In 1992 Dr. Yemets performed the first neonatal open heart surgery in Ukraine and former USSR countries. For this achievement he has been awarded with Honored Doctor title.

Dr. Yemets has worked as a clinical fellow at Children’s Hospital Sydney, Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne and Hospital J. Cartier Paris. He obtained PhD degree in 1997 and served as Chief of Pediatric cardiac surgery at Kyiv Institute of Cardiovascular Surgery and then obtained his Doctor of Medical Sciences degree in 2002.

He founded the Ukrainian Children’s Cardiac Center (UCCC) in 2002 and became its Director. In 2010 Dr. Yemets was appointed a Minister of Health of Ukraine but he resigned shortly after to return to clinical practice.

In 2009 Dr. Yemets was the first in the world who suggested the use of umbilical cord blood for pediatric cardiac surgery in the first hours of life. The results of this research were presented at European Association of Cardiothoracic Surgery 24th Annual Meeting, Geneva 2010 and American Association for Thoracic 91st Meeting, Philadelphia 2011 as a first such experience in the World.

These were recently updated with report at American Association for Thoracic 96th Annual Meeting in Baltimore on May 16th 2016. This method gave the ground for development and implementation of CorD program.

Dr. Yemets major clinical interests are congenital heart surgery, neonatal heart surgery and adult congenital heart disease. His research interests include congenital heart surgery in the first hours of life, use of umbilical cord blood in congenital heart surgery, prenatal diagnostics of congenital heart disease and valve repairs without use of allogenic tissue, hemostasis and blood preservation in cardiac surgery.

He performs 150-200 surgeries per year including arterial switch, Ross operation, TAPVC repair, truncus arteriosus repair etc.  He is author and co-author of 300 scientific publications. Since its foundation, Ukrainian Children’s Cardiac Centre developed into the center of excellence for Ukraine and is amongst the biggest in Europe by case volume and complexity.

For five years now, Dr. Yemets closely works with EurasiaHeart Foundation led by Prof. Paul R. Vogt, chief of Cardiac Surgery Department at Klinik im Park in Zurich, Switzerland who is a permanent consultant in the Center. During those five years we visited and successfully operated children in Almaty, Chimkent (Kazakhstan), Tashkent, Bukhara (Uzbekistan), St. Petersburg (Russian Federation), Yangon (Myanmar) and Phnom Penh (Cambodia).

The CorD program the clinic is famous for is about detection and correction. Fetal echocardiography is the method of choice for diagnosing congenital heart defects in utero. Prenatal diagnosis of congenital heart defect (CHD) is possible from about 12 weeks of pregnancy. The highest accuracy could be achieved at 18 to 20 weeks.

The delivery is set up in the maternity unit nearest to the cardiac center, and operation could be planned right away after birth. Mother and health providers are well prepared for delivery and following care that child would require.

Correction means that during delivery, the umbilical cord blood should be harvested for further use during surgery. After child with CHD is born and admitted to cardiac unit diagnosis is verified. At 3 to 8 hours of age operation is performed using autologous the umbilical cord blood for cardiopulmonary bypass which excludes adverse effects associated with donor blood (infections and immune reactions).

This program has brought many patients from abroad to our center. The clinic has successfully treated numerous patients from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Libya, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Turkey.

Dr. Illya Yemets provides treatment for all congenital and acquired complex cardiac disease in our Center or by visiting teams of professionals. The clinic provides postgraduate education for doctors in all specialties allied with cardiology and cardiac surgery and cooperation in science and research at the facilities.