The James Cook University Hospital has been selected as one of the first in the UK to offer a leading-edge stroke-prevention treatment.
The Middlesbrough hospital is one of 10 centres across the UK selected to offer the new procedure known as Left Atrial Appendage (LAA) Closure as part of NHS England’s £15m Commissioning through Evaluation (CtE) programme.
LAA closure is a treatment to prevent blood clots in patients suffering from abnormal heart rhythms which can now be offered as an alternative for those who cannot safely take blood-thinning drugs such as Warfarin.
The left atrial appendage is a small pouch which empties blood into one of the top chambers of the heart. When it does not squeeze consistently because of an abnormal heart rhythm the blood inside the pouch can become stagnant and may form clots.
The new keyhole procedure involves inserting a small disk known as a Watchman Device into the heart chamber to close the pouch and prevent clots from forming.
James Cook will be the regional centre for the north east jointly with The Freeman Hospital in Newcastle. Consultant cardiologist Simon James will be performing the new procedure along with his colleague Dougie Muir.
He said: “Some patients can’t have Warfarin so they were left at risk of having a stroke, but now we can offer them an alternative that gives them the same protection. We already have a number of patients who will benefit from it.
“It’s quite exciting that we have the chance to do it first. It builds on the work we are already doing with atrial fibrillation treatments and TAVI (transcatheter aortic valve implantation).”
The CtE programme is testing an innovative approach to evaluating potentially promising specialised treatments, but for which there is currently insufficient evidence available to support routine commissioning within the NHS.
It enables a small number of procedures to be funded, within a limited number of selected centres, and within a limited time-frame, while evidence on the relative clinical and cost effectiveness of the procedures is gathered, compared to other treatments already available in the NHS.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is supporting NHS England in the evaluation of the schemes.