Better Treatment For Heart Attack Victims in Portsmouth

Heart attack patients in Portsmouth and surrounding areas now have the benefit of a superior emergency treatment after it was launched around the clock at Queen Alexandra Hospital.

From today (Wednesday 1 September) Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust can now administer Primary Angioplasty - an emergency procedure - 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to people who come to the Cosham hospital suffering from a heart attack.

Patients have heart attacks because an artery feeding blood to the heart muscle becomes blocked with a blood clot.

During the angioplasty procedure a small hollow tube called a catheter is passed to the heart artery near to where it is blocked. Through the catheter, a device with a small inflatable balloon is directed by X-ray screening to the blocked section of the coronary artery. The balloon is gently inflated and squashes the clot and fatty tissue and widens the artery.

Before the device is withdrawn a ‘stent’, which is a short tube of stainless-steel mesh, is left in place in the artery. This acts as scaffolding to keep the section of artery open restoring the blood flow.

Primary Angioplasty is an emergency procedure used to treat people having a certain type of heart attack called ST Elevation. The best results are obtained when Primary Angioplasty is done within 150 minutes of the patient’s heart attack first symptoms.

Before now Primary Angioplasty was available at Portsmouth Hospitals 24 hours a day, Monday to Friday, to people who experienced a heart attack or who had received thrombolysis (clot busting drugs) for a heart attack but it hadn’t taken effect properly (rescue angioplasty).

One patient who has experienced the benefits of the procedure is Gerald Cameron from Havant. One morning in May at 8am Mr Cameron was returning to his home after taking the rubbish bin out and collapsed on his kitchen floor.

His wife immediately dialled 999 and within minutes Mr Cameron was in an ambulance being taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital.

By 9.20am he was out of surgery having had a stent fitted. Mr Cameron said:

“In the space of one hour, twenty minutes I received the most outstanding professional service from all the medical staff.

“This procedure undoubtedly saved my life and it is fantastic that it will be available around the clock for those who need it.”

The provision of Primary Angioplasty 24/7 is currently being rolled out at certain Trusts across the country with a deadline of April 2011 but patients in Portsmouth and surrounding areas now have the procedure seven months earlier.

Queen Alexandra Hospital is one of two hospitals in the area providing the procedure, the other is Southampton General Hospital, meaning more people across the south, especially from West Sussex, now have quicker access to the treatment.

Huw Griffiths, Consultant Cardiologist at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, said:

“We are delighted that the Trust now provides this service around the clock.

“Using angioplasty will reduce the number of deaths and improve longer term outcomes for patients.  It will reduce complications resulting from treatment of heart attacks, reducing the risk of re-occurrence and also help prevent strokes, which is excellent news for the patient. Additionally, patients with a heart attack treated with angioplasty will have a shorter hospital stay and be able to go home earlier.”

The service will also help heart attack patients on the Isle of Wight as they have the choice to be airlifted to Queen Alexandra Hospital from the island for Primary Angioplasty.

Dr Griffiths added:

“A lot of work has gone in to being able to establish this service, both within the Trust and in partnership with the ambulance service. We are extremely proud to be able to provide this treatment 24/7 which will be a huge benefit to our patients.”

The angioplasty procedure takes place in a cardiac catheterisation laboratory (cath lab). Last summer the Cardiology Department opened three new cath labs as part of the new development.

Primary Angioplasty can also be referred to as Balloon Angioplasty, Balloon Dilation, PTCA (percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty) or PCI (percutaneous coronary intervention).

Primary Angioplasty will become the treatment of choice. Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust will be one of four sites in the region that will offer the procedure by April 2011.