Dr. Harvinder Singh Sahota – The American Sikh ‘Mender of Hearts’

By

Dr. (Professor) Surjit Singh Bhatti , Calgary (Canada)

Dr. Harvinder Singh Sahota was born (on April 15), 80 years ago in a suburb of Ferozepur, in Punjab. As a child, he was taken very seriously ill with double pneumonia and was declared as (almost) dead, after all available treatments did not show any hopeful results. However, the persistent efforts of a local physician, to everyone’s surprise, succeeded in reviving him.  His father, S. Lachman Singh, a Station Master in British-Indian Railways, decided to motivate his son to become a doctor and to serve sick people as an act of gratitude.  Name of the boy was changed, from Iqbal Singh to Harvinder Singh, to signify that he had a second birth and a new life. He later had another very close brush with death when at age eleven he was again presumed dead following a very severe attack of malaria. The distraught mother, Dhan Kaur, prayed fervently as another medical practitioner worked hard and saved him from the clutches of looming death.

Nobody, not even his parents, could have imagined that this boy will one day become one of world’s leading Cardiologists. Perhaps, the modest, frail-looking but intelligent school-boy himself may not have foreseen that one day he would go to UK and then to USA and invent medical devices that will save lives of millions of heart patients. His mother could not have thought that, nearly seven decades later, her son will donate US $ 1.5 Million in her name (to the University of California, Irvine) for the education and healthcare of the people, as also for the creation of awareness and understanding of the philosophy of his Faith, Sikhi.

Dr. Harvinder Singh Sahota, whose life was twice saved by medical science, is today more popular as Harvey or Harry Sahota. As a renowned surgeon, dedicated to innovation for the cardiac health of the people, he is affectionately called “Hero of the American Hearts”  in the US and a “Mender of Hearts” throughout the world. This energetic Sikh, in all humility, has never failed to visit the Gurdwara in Orange County in gratitude and reverence to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy Scripture of the Sikhs and their Spiritual Guide. Responding to his mother’s prayers, he believes he has been given a second life in order to serve others. 

Dr. Sahota’s Migration to UK

Dr. Sahota obttained his first medical degree (MBBS) in 1965 at Government Medical College, Patiala. After graduation in India, he migrated to the UK and started further studies in1967 at the University of Liverpool. In 1970, he earned his post-graduate degree in Cardiology, with specialization in the area of Tropical Medicine. In 1971, he started Residency at the University of Cardiff. Here he specialized in Pulmonary Cardiology, specially to treat a heart-lung disorder in which the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the lungs become narrowed, making it difficult for blood to flow through them.

Migration to USA (University of Rochester, NY)

In 1974, he got a Research Fellowship in Cardiology and went to the USA where he started to work at the University of Rochester in New York. Dr Sahota completed  his first major research project at the University of Rochester by 1976. He spent one more year in Regina, Saskatchewan (Canada),  to do some additional work related to this research project during 1977. In 1978 he returned to USA and started working at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Los Angeles, California.

Inventions by Dr. Harvinder Singh Sahota

In some older persons,  blood-pumping ability of the heart gets reduced. Heart failure results from the stress that makes it work too hard. When cholesterol builds up in the heart’s arteries, less blood can reach the heart muscle, a situation known as atherosclerosis. The result may be chest pain (angina) or, if blood flow becomes totally obstructed, a heart attack. Most heart attacks occur when a clot in the coronary artery blocks the supply of blood and oxygen, and the affected heart muscles die. Angioplasty is the technique widely used for opening stenoses (narrowing) of the vascular system and coronary arteries.

The first invention made by Dr. Sahota was that of a Hemostat, in 1977.  It is a device that stops spillage of blood during heart surgery and helps to plug blood loss. In 1985, he invented a Perfusion (Angioplasty) Balloon, which is a small hollow and flexible tube with a balloon near its one end. Perfusion is the passage of blood to a capillary bed in the tissue. Angioplasty procedure aims to open narrowed or blocked coronary arteries, that supply blood to the heart. A small metal mesh tube, called a Stent, that expands inside a coronary artery, is often placed in it during or immediately after angioplasty. The procedure is done by threading a thin tube, called a catheter, through a small puncture in a leg or arm artery of the patient. Once the stent is in place, it stays in the artery, but the balloon catheter is deflated and removed.

Perfusion Angioplasty Balloon is also known as Sahota Perfusion Balloon now. This is placed in the heart artery to lift the cholesterol that blocks normal flow of blood.  Inflation of balloon prevents chest pain during the operation. After the US-Federal approval by Food  and Drug Administration (FDA),  Dr. Sahota performed Coronary Angioplasty surgeries in  Mexico, Russia, Ukraine, USA and some other countries.  The first surgery in India was done by him in the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), at Chandigarh. This balloon, modified and improved,  is now used in angioplasty all over the world.

Restenosis is an issue encountered in angioplasty due to recurrence of abnormal narrowing of an artery or valve after surgery. It follows tissue growth at the location of surgery due to trauma of angioplasty. Restenosis due to angioplasty may be treated by placing a drug-eluting stent in the blocked vessel, which is effective for three to four years. This stent is a device (placed in the affected artery) that slowly releases a drug to block cell proliferation.  However, it may sometimes cause thrombosis when blood clots block the blood vessels.

Awards and Honors given to Dr. Harvinder Singh Sahota

In 2000, Dr Harvinder Singh Sahota received the Distinguished Physician Award, which was presented to him by a former Indian Prime Minister. He was also honored by the National Federation of Indian- American Associations in the United States.

In 2003, he was appointed Commissioner of Medicine for Orange County, in California. He received the Excellence in Medicine Award from Global Indian Congress of San Francisco.

In 2012, he was honored by the American Heart Association for his research in Cardiovascular Medicine and Interventional Cardiology, and Golden Orange Award by the World Affairs Council of Orange County, California.

Fellowships bestowed on Dr. Sahota by two reputed American professional societies.

FACC    …  Fellow of the American College of Cardiologists, and

FSCAI … Fellow of the Society for Cardiovascular Angiographic Interventions.

His innovations have made heart surgeries much simpler, both for surgeons and the patients.  He is a Board Member of the Metro Hospital, Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, and also of Claremont Lincoln University, California, USA.

Representative Publications of Dr. Sahota are given below.

(1). Harvey  Sahota, et al., Endoluminal Reconstruction of the Arterial Wall with Endothelial Cell / Glue Matrix Reduced Restenosis in an Atherosclerotic Rabbit,  Journal of American College of Cardiology, 36, 4, (2000).

(2). Harvey Sahota, et al., Long-term Follow-up after Coronary Stenting and Intravascular Red Laser Therapy, American Journal of Cardiology, 86/9: 927-37 (2000).

Some US Patented Devices Invented by Dr. Harvinder Singh Sahota

These provide blood flow paths past constricted regions of blood vessels to restore acceptable flow and include distal and proximal (two opposite) side orifices into a main lumen to provide a flow path through the catheter. A segmented or lobed balloon forms flow passages between the catheter and blood vessel wall to provide flow, while the balloon is inflated. Some catheter systems provide means for inserting a catheter into coronary arteries remote from the aorta.

  • Balloon Catheters 

These are dilatation catheters for use in administering treatments to relieve stenotic (constricted) regions within a body lumen. In one aspect, a two-wire catheter system of minimal diameter for treating distal arteries is disclosed.

  • Device for minimizing Restenosis 

It discloses a light angioplasty catheter for exposing the interior of a body lumen to a source of light. Exposure may be accomplished prior to, during or following balloon dilatation.

  • Reduced Restenosis drug containing Stents 

A stent along with drug delivery system are provided.  It comprises at least two therapeutic agents. In one form, its dosage levels are lower than conventional dosing.

  • Electromagnetic Photonic Catheter for reducing Restenosis

With this treatment for restenosis after angioplasty, stenting with drug coating, or drug delivery, comprises inserting a catheter or hollow wire to the treatment location.

  • Wire Perfusion Catheter 

It is a wire perfusion catheter for percutaneous (through the skin) transluminal  angioplasty. The catheter includes a hollow wire to be inserted into a blood vessel. It defines an axial lumen therein.

  • Topless Catheters 

It is used for either guiding a catheter for balloon dilatation in the body lumen, or as a diagnostic catheter for conducting radio opaque dyes into a predetermined body lumen .

  • Hemostat with blood flow sensor

A Hemostat is for restricting blood flow through a blood vessel for assisting hemostasis. An ultrasonic sensor is mounted with a pressure pad to sense rate of blood flow through the vessel when pressure is applied to obtain minimum bleeding with maximum flow.

  • Apparatus for positioning and puncturing an artery and a vein

A blood flow detector produces a signal in response to pulsatile blood flow to provide means for positioning a slot in a plate in alignment with a patient’s artery. Pressing the plate against the patient’s skin retains the artery in alignment with the slot for puncturing.

Philanthropic work by Dr. Harvinder Singh Sahota

Dr. Harvinder Singh Sahota has been very generous in assisting the needy persons in medical treatment, for higher studies and for social causes. He worked very hard to establish The Sikh Museum at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC and is on the Board of its Directors. He also gave a donation to the University of California, Irvine, and Instituted a Sikh Chair for research in Sikhism. He is very popular as a kind-hearted man and as an efficient heart surgeon .

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Modern Medical Advances have helped millions of people live longer, healthier lives. 

We owe these improvements to decades of Investment in Medical Research.”

Ike Skelton  ( 1931 – 2013 )

 A Former Member of the US House of Representatives

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(surjitsinghbhatti@gmail.com)

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