Primary Angioplasty

The James Cook University Hospital’s heart unit was one of the first in the country to introduce primary angioplasty as the first line of treatment to restore blood flow after a heart attack.


Angioplasty is the procedure of inserting, then inflating, a small balloon in the blocked coronary artery, leaving a rigid support to restore blood flow.

In the past patients who suffered a particular type of heart attack known as a STEMI (ST elevation myocardial infarction) were given thrombolysis – clot-busting drugs – but clinical evidence has shown that using angioplasty as the primary treatment for heart attack patients reduces complications and improves recovery rates.

Our heart unit was one of seven hospitals in the country chosen as a pilot site for primary angioplasty which has now been rolled out countrywide.

When an ambulance crew diagnose a patient as having this type of heart attack they will take the patient directly to a heart unit  even if it means going past the patient’s local hospital.

The sooner this treatment is carried out the less damage there is likely to be to the heart and the quicker the recovery time for the patient.

Ambulance crews can radio ahead with the patient details to let the heart attack centre know the patient is on the way and necessary preparations can be made during the ambulance journey time to minimise delays.