Cardiologist performs pioneering heart operation

Published: 25 August 2016 at 09:35

Surgical lamps in operating theatre

Anglia Ruskin academic carries out life-saving surgery using rapid cooling technique

An Anglia Ruskin University academic was part of the first UK clinical team to use a new type of rapid cooling to perform life-saving surgery on a heart attack patient. The operation was carried out at The Essex Cardiothoracic Centre (CTC).

Dr Thomas Keeble, who has a dual role as a consultant cardiologist at the Essex Cardiothoracic Centre (CTC) and as a Senior Research Fellow at the Faculty of Medical Science at Anglia Ruskin, was part of the team that carried out the operation on a 50-year-old man, who had complained of pains in his chest while at home.

On arrival at Basildon Hospital, the patient was diagnosed as having suffered a heart attack and was rushed straight to the CTC, which is the only UK centre to be involved in the worldwide randomised trial  for the ZOLL catheter called the Proteus.

Cooling, or therapeutic hypothermia (TH), is a technique whereby the body’s internal temperature is reduced to minimise swelling and damage caused to the heart muscle following a heart attack. The quicker the patient is cooled before unblocking the artery, the less damage is caused.

A catheter with balloon is inserted from the leg in the main vein that runs through the body, called the inferior vena cava. A cool liquid runs into the balloon and cools the body down from inside. The patient’s core temperature was lowered as far as 31.7 degrees Celsius during the procedure. The normal body temperature is 36.5 degrees. The patient was conscious throughout the operation.

After the surgery, the patient was warmed up slowly in recovery, by one degree per hour. He has since made a complete recovery.

Dr Keeble, who supervises four research fellows studying medical degrees and PhDs at Anglia Ruskin, said: 

“By cooling the patient before we open the artery, we can protect the heart and significantly reduce the amount of heart damage. It’s essential to do this quickly – we cool them from the inside but keep the outside warm, much like a baked Alaska.”

Consultant cardiologist Dr Reto Gamma inserted one stent into the patient’s heart during the procedure. He said: 

“If the patient starts shivering, their temperature won’t drop, so it’s imperative to cool them quickly, but carefully. The ZOLL machine helps do that in a controlled way.”