Trial could cut patient deaths

SURGEONS from a Colchester hospital have been chosen to take part in a national trial which could result in fewer patients dying as a result of a burst artery or blood vessel.

In the UK, about 8,000 people a year die as a result of a burst aneurysm in the aorta – the main artery leading blood away from the heart.

Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust is the only hospital in Essex or Suffolk to trial a new emergency procedure on patients with a burst aorta.

Mr Adam Howard, one of three consultant vascular surgeons based at Colchester General Hospital, said it was an accolade for the trust to be invited to take part in the national trial.

“It is not only testimony of the abilities of the surgeons but also of all of the staff that support us, such as theatre staff and colleagues who work on the wards and in areas such as critical care, radiology and the vascular laboratory,” he said.


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The trial involves using keyhole surgery rather than traditional open surgery to treat emergency patients.

Currently, about 40% to 45% of patients with a burst aneurysm will die but it is hoped that using the new procedure this could be reduced to 15%.

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Surgeons in Colchester carried out their first non-emergency operation using this new technique in 2007 and since then have performed more than 100 with a very low mortality rate.

The hospital has already carried out seven emergency operations using the new technique.

It involves making two small incisions in the groin and passing a stent through blood vessels to seal off the aneurysm rather than conventional surgery which involves a long cut to the tummy.

Conventional surgery involves a seven to 14-day stay in hospital, including two to three days in the critical care department, but people treated with the new technique are usually home after three to five days, do not need critical care and can return to normal activities much quicker.

The trial which Colchester hospital is involved in is called Improve, which stands for immediate management of patients with ruptured aneurysm: open versus endovascular repair.

Current guidance states that only conventional surgery should be used when an aneurysm bursts, unless a hospital is part of the Improve trial. However, if the Improve trial is successful, it is expected that the Government’s health watchdog NICE will review this guidance.

Since April 2007, Colchester’s vascular surgeons have shared the on-call rota for emergency surgery with their three counterparts at Ipswich Hospital.

In January, Professor Michael Gough recommended that all major vascular surgery in the area served by both hospitals be carried out at Colchester.

However, a final decision will not be taken until after a public consultation.

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