Lab could aid heart attack survival rate

Norfolk's biggest hospital could become the first in the region to offer a ground-breaking heart procedure which could save hundreds of lives - if funds can be raised to open a second angioplasty suite.

Norfolk's biggest hospital could become the first in the region to offer a ground-breaking heart procedure which could save hundreds of lives - if funds can be raised to open a second angioplasty suite.

If the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital can find the extra £400,000 it needs to open a second catheter laboratory it could consider introducing a direct primary angioplasty service, which would see patients receive fast-track treatment to re-open their arteries.

No hospital in the region currently operates such a service which has been found to significantly increase the chance of surviving a heart attack.

Yesterday, it emerged that under 3per cent of patients treated with direct primary angioplasty at Harefield Hospital in Middlesex had died after 30 days. But of those patients taken first to a general hospital before referral to the specialist heart centre, more than 10 per cent died.

The results were presented at a British Cardiovascular Society Conference and hailed by experts as “quite remarkable”.

Once taken to Harefield the patients were treated and their blood flow restored within an average of 24 minutes of arrival, limiting damage to the heart.

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Dr Leisa Freeman, consultant cardiologist and clinical director of cardiology at the N&N, said: “At the moment nowhere in East Anglia offers this primary angioplasty service. If we can open the second lab we could look into delivering this service.”

Dr Liam Hughes, consultant cardiologist at the N&N, said the hospital would like to consider introducing the service. But he said most hospitals which offer direct primary angioplasty are in large cities where there are teams of specialists on hand to man the service 24 hours a day.

“We would like to move towards providing this sort of heart attack service during the week, during normal working hours,” he said.

“It would not be 24 hours a day because there would not be enough staff, but for certain patients it would undoubtedly be a possibility.”

If the hospital can raise the extra £400,000 to open the second laboratory, it would enable it to more than double the number of angioplasty treatments it currently undertakes, and would also mean that only a handful of patients would have to make the 80-mile journey to Papworth Hospital, near Cambridge, for the procedure.

The suite will cost £2.7m, with £1.7m already pledged by the N&N. But the remaining £1m will have to come from public donation and so far £600,000 has been handed over to the Balloons4Hearts appeal.

Dr Hughes is planning to raise money by rowing with a team of five across the North Sea from the Hoek of Holland to Southwold at the start of July. The group is appealing for sponsorship and anyone who can help can visit www.balloons4hearts.co.uk. Cheques for the appeal should be made payable to Norfolk Heart Trust and sent to 215 Unthank Road, Norwich NR2 2PH, or call Claire Hughes on 01953 603777.

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