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A-Z Services - Cardiology Angioplasty

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The Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust is the first hospital in the South West and one of only eight hospitals nationally providing a Primary Angioplasty Service seven days a week for heart attack patients from August 2007.


"Consultant Cardiologist Dr David Smith said: “Speed and teamwork are essential to maximise the benefits of this technique which supersedes ‘clotbusting’ therapy. As a result of tremendous enthusiasm from all concerned – ambulance staff, emergency departments, cardiac nurses, technicians and doctors – we have a great team and are getting faster all the time. We are now able to offer, round the clock, what I consider to be the very best treatment available for people having heart attacks.”


Building on its national reputation as a lead in this specialist procedure for the past decade, the RD&E Cardiology department is now providing a Primary Angioplasty Service around the clock. Up to 200 patients are expected to have this procedure with the extended service over this current financial year, compared with 125 patients in 2006/2007.


Patients have heart attacks because an artery feeding blood to the heart muscle becomes blocked. Primary Angioplasty is now universally regarded as the best way of treating this condition to unblock the artery.


Primary Angioplasty, using local anaesthetic, is a technically exacting procedure where a fine, flexible, hollow tube called a catheter is passed from the groin or arm to the heart artery. Through the catheter, a device with a small inflatable balloon is directed by X-ray screening to the blocked or narrowed 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 Before the device is withdrawn a ‘stent’, which is a short tube of stainless-steel mesh, is left in place in the artery.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. The blood flow is consequently restored and the underlying disease treated.