Southampton heart experts reach life-saving milestone

Dr Alison CalverCardiac specialists at Southampton’s teaching hospitals have performed their 20,000th life-saving angioplasty.

The procedure, where cardiologists open the arteries of heart attack patients with a balloon, clear them and insert a permanent stent, was first performed at Southampton General Hospital in 1983 as an elective treatment for stable angina.

Immediate angioplasty with a stent, known as primary percutaneous coronary intervention (primary PCI), is now recognised as the best treatment for heart attack patients – and Southampton’s cardiac centre is the only one in the Wessex region to offer the treatment round-the-clock.

The team also has a rescue service for surrounding hospitals in the South who don’t provide angioplasty 24/7.

Before the development of primary PCI, patients were treated with clot-busting drugs, effective only in around 70% of cases and resulting in a longer hospital stay.

Dr Alison Calver, consultant cardiologist, said: “There is now overwhelming evidence that the outcome following heart attack is improved if the patient is treated with an immediate angioplasty and stent and that is what we offer to our patients whatever the time of day or night.

“This is important because the treatment needs to be given to heart attack patients as soon as possible after the start of their chest pain to minimise the damage of a heart attack.”

She added: “We recently carried out our 20,000th PCI operation and that is a huge achievement for our team, as we have championed the procedure and led the development and progression of it across the region.”

Three members of staff, radiographers Andy White, Ian Court and Cathy Cosier, have been part of the team at Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust since the first angioplasty in 1983.

Posted on Thursday 29 April 2010