The James Cook University Hospital has been named as an international flagship site for a specialist heart procedure which replaces narrowed heart valves without the need for open heart surgery.
TAVI (transcatheter aortic valve implantation) is a minimally invasive heart valve replacement procedure that provides an alternative to open heart surgery for higher risk patients.
The Middlesbrough team is one of only two in the country – and one of only a handful in Europe – to be awarded Benchmark status by the Centre for Heart Valve Innovation in Vancouver.
Following a visit to the James Cook heart unit the representatives from Vancouver reported that they were ‘at a loss to offer any advice or additional insight’ to further improve the hospital’s TAVI programme.
The team received praise for excellent outcomes, highly optimised processes of care, careful scrutiny of patient safety and outstanding leadership. As a result, they were invited to become a Benchmark partner which will see them share their skills and knowledge with other cardiothoracic teams.
Consultant cardiologist Douglas Muir said: “We have a team-based approach here from admission to recovery with meetings at the beginning of each day to discuss any technical aspects of a case.
“You can always improve of course, but this is affirmation that we are on the right lines and that all the changes we are making, to ensure the procedure is safe but also efficient, make sense and ultimately help our patients.”
The trust introduced TAVI in 2009 and has since treated more than 700 people. Over the last ten years care has advanced to a point where the majority of patients can now go home the day after their procedure – selected patients may even be allowed home the same day if they are well enough.
“The Vancouver team told us that they were not aware of any other hospital in the world that had a protocol for day case TAVI,” said consultant cardiologist Paul Williams.
TAVI specialist nurse Gemma McCalmont added: “The main aim of TAVI is to get people back home to enjoy a good quality of life, and if we can do that quickly and safely then we are making a real difference for our patients.”
The heart unit has also been designated as a European Centre of Excellence for the Portico Valve – one of the artificial heart valve types used by the TAVI team.