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Science
CASE NOTES
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Tuesday 21:00-21:30
Repeat Wednesday 16:30
Dr Mark Porter gives listeners the low-down on what the medical profession does and doesn't know. Each week an expert in the studio tackles a particular topic and there are reports from around the UK on the health of the nation - and the NHS.
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LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 03 February
PRESENTER
DR MARK PORTER
Dr Mark Porter
PROGRAMME DETAILS
Tuesday 03 February 2009
Heart attacks

Full programme transcript >>

Heart Attack

In this edition of Case Notes, Dr Mark Porter hears about new treatments for heart attacks.

He visits the London Chest Hospital where the use of primary angioplasty – using tiny balloons to open up the blockages in the coronary arteries that cause heart attack – is being pioneered.

This treatment can stop a heart attack in its tracks.

Until recently the gold standard for treating heart attack was to give clot busters: drugs that can dissolve blockages and restore normal blood flow to the heart muscle if given quickly enough, but they don’t work for everyone – around a third of cases don’t respond.

Instead of using drugs to clear the blockages, primary angioplasty involves doctors passing a fine wire and balloon into the coronary arteries and stretching out the narrowing by inflating the balloon.

If all goes well blood flow is restored immediately – and the narrowed section held open by a tiny tubular metal frame called a stent which is left in after the balloon is withdrawn.

The team at the London Chest Hospital, part of the Barts and London NHS Trust, have been at the forefront of developing a primary angioplasty service that should be rolled out across the UK over the next two to three years.

Mark speaks to Professor Martin Rothman, director of Interventional Cardiology at Barts and the London, about how the treatment was developed.

He also sees the procedure being performed on two patients who arrive at the hospital by ambulance complaining of chest pains.

To have a chance of success, a primary angioplasty needs to be carried out promptly, meaning that anyone with suspicious chest pain should dial 999 immediately: 

• The chest pain is normally felt in the centre of the chest.

• The pain may spread to the neck, jaw, shoulders or arms

• It's often described as tightness or heavy pressure

• It typically lasts more than 10 - 15 minutes

• It may be accompanied by feeling faint or sick, sweating and difficulty breathing

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