A new sling developed for heart patients at The James Cook University Hospital could soon be used by the NHS across the country or even further afield.
Senior radiographer Sue Best came up with the simple idea to provide comfort for both the patient and clinician during a coronary angiogram – a specialist type of x-ray which finds out detailed information about the heart’s arteries.
Now, the first boxes of the disposable velcro sling have come off the production line after Sue’s invention was championed by the hospital’s research and development team and developed by NHS Innovations North and company GMED UK Limited, before being commercialised by Amdel Medical.
During a coronary angiogram, a catheter is inserted either into the groin through the femoral artery or into the arm through the radial artery – the radial artery is preferred as it is smaller requiring easier closure and the patient’s recovery time is shorter – and then guided towards the heart. When it is in the correct position, a contrast (dye) is then injected.
Due to the lay-out of the theatres with monitors and equipment on the left, the clinician always stands to the right of the patient and generally goes into the radial artery from the right.
However, if there are problems accessing the right radial artery or if a patient has had by-pass graft grafting, the surgeon may wish to access the left radial artery, which means leaning over the patient to perform the angiogram. Instead they tend to use the femoral approach which can mean more discomfort for the patient and a longer recovery time.
Now using Sue’s new disposable sling, the left arm can be positioned over the patient’s chest (once left radial access has been obtained) and secured using a Velcro attachment board, allowing the clinician to use the left radial artery to perform the angiogram without having to lean over the operating table.
Sue said: “We used to prop the patient’s left arm up on a pillow which wasn’t ideal – it just got me thinking ‘there’s got to be something better than this’ so I came up with the sling idea and asked the staff in the sewing room to make up a sample to my specifications.
“The first ones were fabric so had to be washed afterwards but all the consultants use the adapted version now. The basic design hasn’t really changed although the slings are now a single-use, disposable item which is better for infection, prevention and control.”
The trust’s research and development department supported Sue and financed registration of the design, working closely with NHS Innovations North, which champions the cause of healthcare innovation, as well as identifying, developing and commercialising intellectual property (IP) created by NHS employees.
Ged McGonnell, managing director of GMED UK, who only work with ideas that come out of the NHS, then took Sue’s idea and came up with a number of prototypes before the final design was chosen.
An agreement was then reached with UK medical device firm, Amdel Medical, who agreed to take the sling on and both manufacture and distribute it.
Mr McGonnell said: “We took the sling to a number of UK centres and got some really positive feedback so we’re delighted it’s ready for use. We already have interest from a number of UK centres and from other parts of Europe.”