IT was 30 years ago when Teesside’s first cardiac catheterisation laboratory opened its doors at what was then South Cleveland Hospital.
The driving force behind the decision to develop a second north east cardiothoracic unit was a combination of Adrian Davies, a consultant cardiologist at South Cleveland Hospital, and Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, who was regional medical officer and regional director of public health at the time.
Over the years the heart unit at The James Cook University Hospital has continued to pioneer the most state-of-the-art treatments for the benefit of patients with cardiovascular disease across the region and beyond.
“We have achieved so much over the past 30 years – from halving hospital mortality from heart attacks in Middlesbrough when we started a primary angioplasty service; to fitting more than 11,000 pacemakers; to pioneering some of the most advanced robotic surgery techniques."Andrew Sutton, consultant cardiologist and clinical chair for cardiothoracic and vascular care services
To celebrate the milestone anniversary we delved back into our archives to highlight just a few of the team’s amazing achievements over the past 30 years:
20 January 1993
Liverpool FC manager, and former Middlesbrough FC player, Graeme Souness opened the first cardiac catheterisation laboratory. This lab was situated off the right of the corridor walking from the north entrance reception to endoscopy.
First pacemaker fitted at South Cleveland Hospital.
First cardiothoracic surgery carried out at South Cleveland Hospital.
South Cleveland Heart Fund established. The charity is chaired by Dr Davies and has since raised more than £2.5million.
1996 to 2001
The team runs a series of research protocols looking at management of acute myocardial infarction, culminating in the MERLIN trial (Middlesbrough Early Revascularisation to Limit INfarction). This paved the way for the unit to be at forefront of delivering primary PCI (percutaneous coronary intervention) in the UK.
Electrophysiology and ablation service starts.
2001 to 2005
Cardiac intensive therapy unit team becomes UK’s leading exponent of fast-track cardiac surgery, underpinning very high surgical case throughput.
New suite of cardiac catheter labs (initially three) opened in their current location at (newly renamed) The James Cook University Hospital.
UK’s first minimally invasive mitral valve repair programme launched – this has been highly successful with more than 500 procedures to date.
First UK centre to deliver 24-hour primary angioplasty – mechanical treatment to unblock a coronary artery with wires, balloons and stents as the first treatment to restore blood flow after a heart attack, replacing “clot busting” drugs.
Heart surgery team trial new minimally invasive vein harvesting technique (now performed regularly).
Angioplasty team initiates a chronic total occlusion programme for patients with chronic angina and completely occluded coronary arteries.
First TAVI procedure – transcatheter aortic valve implantation – an advanced procedure in which a team of specially trained consultants replace narrowed heart valves without the need for open heart surgery.
UK’s first advanced critical care practitioner (ACCP) programme developed with Teesside University.
Trust pilots its own heart failure unit.
Specialist nurse-led blackout service opened in collaboration with the neurology team.
Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) service started.
First minimally invasive aortic valve replacement at James Cook.
First to fit an Ingenio™ pacemaker giving patients a guaranteed battery life of 14 years.
Fourth cardiac catheter lab opened at James Cook.
Heart team awarded £250,000 by the National Institute of Healthcare Research to undertake a leading-edge research project – the MAVRIC trial – comparing keyhole surgery to conventional surgery for patients requiring aortic valve replacements.
Start of MAVRIC trial.
UK’s first team to implant a new miniature wireless heart monitor – the Medtronic Reveal LINQ™ loop recorder, primarily be used to help pinpoint why a patient is suffering blackouts or an irregular heartbeat.
First team outside of clinical trials to implant a WiSE wireless pacemaker – the size of a grain of rice.
First use in the UK of the Da Vinci robot used to remove tumour from the main airway of a lung.
James Cook uses new heart pump – HeartMate PHP cardiac assist device – the first commercial use worldwide and its first ever use in the UK.
Heart team awarded £1.8million by the National Institute of Healthcare Research to undertake a leading-edge research project – The UK MINI MITRAL trial – comparing keyhole surgery to conventional surgery for patients requiring mitral valve repair.
First Medtronic Micra leadless permanent pacemaker.
Successful completion of £1million South Cleveland Heart Fund charity drive to upgrade MRI scanners at James Cook.
TAVI team develop a novel way of implanting the aortic valve via the axillary artery whilst the patient is awake – the first centre in the UK to perform this technique.
TAVI team performs the first day case TAVI in the UK.
New valve treatment to improve lung function – the Pulmonx valve provides a new treatment option which avoids the need for surgery. The one-way valve prevents airflow into the diseased part of the lung, allowing healthier regions to expand and function more efficiently.
10,000th pacemaker fitted.
Friarage awarded national arrhythmia alliance cardiac rhythm management team of the year.
Named as an international flagship site for TAVI .
First non-invasive stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) VT ablation 2019 – highest volume UK centre with 5 of a total of 14 UK patients in 2022.
A tiny clip – MitraClip – is used to repair a leaking heart valve without the need for invasive surgery.
First Ghana mission – the team have since completed four trips where they have given up their days off to perform life-saving procedures and training.
2020 to 2021
The team maintain one of the highest cardiac surgical throughputs in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic; all other urgent cardiac work continues; more day case TAVI is performed; the team adopts remote monitoring and remote clinics to ensure patients are appropriately followed up for their cardiovascular disease, but are kept in a safe environment.
Ongoing development of Tees cardiac MRI service with combined North and South Tees waiting list to improve equity of access to CMR across Teesside. CMR-capable scanners in Stockton, Middlesbrough, Northallerton and (in 2023) Hartlepool.
The Hearts and Minds Appeal is launched jointly by Our Hospitals Charity and the South Cleveland Heart Fund to raise funds for the re-development of part of the building and the formation of a specific research orientated Academic Cardiovascular Unit (ACU).
Successful appointment to the ACU of three senior lecturers, and a chair of cardiac surgery in partnership with Newcastle University and York University.
Hearts and Minds appeal hits £650,000 target.