It is an established fact that Lithuanian surgeons have, for many years, been regarded as being among the best in the world. The first heart operation in Eastern Europe was performed in Lithuania in 1900 when a 9-year-old boy with suppurative pericarditis was treated by having his heart opened and letting the infection drain.
Five years ago, surgeons Vytautas Sirvydis and Giedrius Uzdavinys decided to capitalize on their reputation by opening a modern heart surgery clinic on Vilnius' Laisves Avenue. At the time, when the Russian financial crisis hit the Baltic region, rumors spread that the private Heart Surgery Center clinic would quickly fold as it opened.
But the clinic weathered the crisis and is alive and well today, mostly catering to wealthy patients from Lithuania, Russia, Belarus, Latvia and Estonia.
Surgeons at the Heart Surgery Clinic hold licenses to perform rare invasive procedures unavailable in most of these countries. About 50 operations for treating congenital, coronary and acquired heart diseases are available - ranging from basic bypass grafts and heart valve replacements to complicated Jatene-D'or and Ross procedures.
Sirvydis and Uzdavinys studied under the legendary Lithuanian heart surgeon, Algimantas Marcinkevius who, starting in the 1960s developed innovative procedures while training an entire generation of experts - in surgery, anesthesiology, cardiology, physiology, biochemistry and immunology - in order to meet the needs of high quality cardiosurgery in the country.
The heart surgery clinic's surgeons have published dozens of articles in major medical journals, belong to international medical associations and have trained and apprenticed with the world's best heart specialists all over the world.
Also, the clinic boasts one of the best teams of anesthesiologists, a further reassurance for patients due to the high risks invloved in open-heart surgery.
"I can boldly say that our center competes with any in Western Europe," said Rasa Jatkeviciene, marketing director at the Heart Surgery Center.
She said that patients came to the clinic for the best care, but also because it's less expensive than those in major European cities.
Also, surgery at the clinic is approved by all major medical insurance plans.
In January 2003, Sirvydis was decorated by Estonia's President Arnold Ruutel for succesful pro bono operations performed on two small Estonian girls with rare heart conditions.
Another draw beyond the highly experienced and qualified medical staff - Sirvydis and Uzdavinys have performed a total of 15,000 operations in their careers - is also the state-of-the-art facilities, including an anti-bacterial air filtration system throughout the building, as well as a high-priced operating theater and angiography equipment from well-known instrumentation manufacturers such as Boston Science, Nihon and Aika.
Five to 10 operations a week are performed by the clinic's surgeons. Patients can choose private or semiprivate rooms (30 beds total) for postoperative care, and a private nurse is assigned to watch over each patient following surgery.
The price of an operation includes regular examinations for up to six months following a procedure.
Recently, the center has also partnered with vascular, orthopedic, plastic and neurosurgeons who come to make use of the advanced facilities.