Blocked arteries restrict blood flow to the heart and can cause heart attacks. The patients who agreed to appear in the live training film all have a chronic total occlusion (CTO), meaning they have a completely blocked artery that can be difficult for cardiologists to open.
A procedure called angioplasty is commonly used to open narrowed arteries. Guided by x-ray monitors, the cardiologist inserts a hollow tube, or catheter, into the blocked artery, via a small incision in the groin or arm. A thin guide wire is then fed through the catheter, over which a small balloon is delivered to the affected area, which is inflated to open the artery. In most cases a stent is also inserted which acts as a scaffold and keeps the artery open.
If the artery is completely blocked, it can be impossible to insert the balloon to open it. But Dr Paul Kelly, Dr John Davies and Dr Kare Tang, cardiologists at the Essex CTC, are using cutting-edge equipment, such as the Stingray Balloon, with a flattened head that allows a guide wire to by-pass the blockage.
Dr Abdul Mozid, Specialist Registrar in Cardiology, who helped organise the training event, said: “The Essex CTC is one of the few centres in Britain to use these new techniques and our aim is to help other national centres learn how to do the same.
“We have acquired the specialist equipment and the knowledge to treat patients with CTO and we are keen to share our expertise.”
Patient case study
One of the patients whose procedure was filmed on the study day was Roy Hammon, 72. A former self-employed builder from Ware in Hertfordshire, Roy had a heart attack at the age of 45, and has had two more since then.
Roy said: “I had a quadruple bypass in a London hospital, but within six months my arteries were getting blocked again. I gave up smoking, and carried on working in my 50s and 60s, but I had two more heart attacks and my ill health really slowed me down.”
Roy got married in December last year, but was feeling increasingly unwell and short of breath. “The pains in my chest were really bad, and it was so much worse in the cold weather,” he said. “Three more of my arteries are blocked, one completely. I thought the specialists at my local hospital might suggest I had another bypass operation but they said I was not suitable for that because I have too much scar tissue. Then my cardiologist said he would make inquiries with the team at The Essex Cardiothoracic Centre, as they are always coming up with ingenious new ideas. I came here and met Dr Mozid, who explained that there were some new procedures that might help me.
“I am one of life’s busy people; I always want to be active. My wife Vicki is a lovely lady and I want to share some more good years with her, so I am grateful for anything that could make that happen.”
The procedure to clear Roy’s CTO using the Stingray balloon was carried out by Dr Paul Kelly, Consultant Cardiologist. It completely restored blood flow to the blocked vessel and Roy returned home the following day. Two weeks later, he says that there has been an improvement in his condition. “I am definitely feeling the effects of the procedure, in a good way. Every day I seem to be getting better; today I have been out in my greenhouse all morning, pruning and watering plants.
“Everyone at The CTC looked after me very well before and after the procedure, and I am very pleased to be feeling better.”