Vascular Disease

A specialist endovascular theatre has been officially opened at James Cook.

Endovascular theatre

One of the first of its kind in the region, this facility makes it possible to combine advanced x-ray imaging with a fully equipped operating theatre.

This means vascular surgeons and radiologists can work together to do highly complex diagnostic procedures and operations including interventional radiology and vascular surgery.

The official opening was held to coincide with The Circulation Foundation’s week-long campaign ‘It can happen to anyone at any time’ to raise awareness of vascular disease.

Robert Walton, the first patient to have a stent fitted at James Cook in 1998 for an abdominal aortic aneurysm had the honour of cutting the ribbon.

Dr Richard Hartley, consultant radiologist, said: “This new room is the next step forward in that it’s got great x-ray facilities, great imaging facilities but it’s also an operating theatre.

“It enables us to do procedures that previously would have had to be done over two days or started in the main operating theatre upstairs.”

Endovascular procedures are minimally invasive and may be described as ‘keyhole surgery’. Flexible plastic catheters are navigated through blood vessels using the body’s arterial tree as a ‘highway’ to gain access to areas which can otherwise only be reached by making a surgical incision.

As there is very little pain, the patient may be awake during the procedure and return to normal activities very quickly.

Vascular surgeon Andrew Parry added: “This new endovascular theatre represents a significant investment in world class vascular services and will further improve what are already excellent surgical results for patients treated at James Cook.”

Screening saves lives

Not only can vascular disease cause blockages of arteries leading to strokes, deaths and leg amputations, it can lead to weakening of the aorta (the main artery from the heart) in the abdomen, causing an aneurysm.

Small aneurysms cause no symptoms, but larger aneurysms can rupture with a risk of sudden death due to internal bleeding.

Men over the age of 65 are at particular risk, and this condition is responsible for more than 10,000 deaths each year in England

The north east is one of the first areas to offer screening for aneurysms to all men in their 65th year. The screening aims to identify those people who may be at risk allowing early treatment to prevent rupture and death

Mr Parry said: “The screening test for an aneurysm is simple, quick and painless and involves an ultrasound scan of the tummy, similar to scans performed on pregnant women. Men in their 65th year will be invited to go along for this test, usually at a health centre close to them.

“It’s important to attend for this test. Most people will be reassured that they do not have this condition, but in around 5% of men an aneurysm will be detected.

“Most will be small and will not require an operation, but regular health checks can reduce the risk of it getting bigger. In a small number of men a large aneurysm will be found in which case early treatment could save your life.”

Vascular disease – what you should know

  • Vascular disease develops when arteries become damaged by the build-up of fatty deposits which make it more difficult for the blood to flow through
  • These fatty deposits are often caused by excessive smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise
  • This can lead to stroke, aneurysms or peripheral arterial disease (PAD) in the legs which if left untreated can lead to ulceration, gangrene and amputation
  • Vascular disease is often known as the silent killer as most people are unaware of it, despite it being as common as cancer and heart disease
  • It is strongly associated with strokes, diabetes and heart disease
  • Men over the age of 55, smokers and diabetics are particularly at risk
  • Teesside has some of the highest rates of vascular disease in England with nearly three times more preventable deaths each year than the healthiest parts of England
  • You can check your risk online at