August 8, 2008

Heart Patients Benefit From Vein Technique

By Barry Nelson

TWENTY-FIVE North-East heart patients are among the first in the UK to benefit from an improved way to obtain veins for heart bypass surgery.

In recent years, thousands of heart patients in Britain have undergone operations to remove lengths of vein from their legs for use in heart bypass operations.

The leg veins become substitute coronary heart arteries. But one problem has been the long scars left on patients? legs.

Now a technique widely used in the US has been introduced to the UK.

Instead of cutting through the skin of the leg, a long thin instrument known as an endoscope is passed through a small cut and alongside the vein under the skin.

The vein is then separated from its branches and freed from surrounding tissues.

Since the beginning of June, patients needing heart bypass surgery have had veins removed in this way at The James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, as part of a trial funded by South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust and the South Cleveland Heart Fund charity. The Teesside centre is only the third heart unit to take part in the trial, along with Blackpool and Plymouth.

Officials at the James Cook are in talks to secure NHS funding for the treatment.

A total of 50 patients are due to undergo the procedure at the James Cook.

Surgeon Simon Kendall said: ?Patients who have had the surgery often say the cut on their leg is worse than the one on the chest. Also the leg wound can take a bit longer to heal and is more susceptible to infection. ? Mr Kendall said the trial was going very well and the feedback from patients had been excellent.

?They are amazed and say they have much less pain, ? he said.

Douglas Weygang, 72, from Sunderland Bridge, County Durham, had a vein extracted endoscopically before having a quadruple bypass operation just over a month ago.

?Ihave had no problems with my leg at all. It has been wonderful. All I have got is a tiny cut on my right calf, ? he said. Neil Robinson, 42, from Shotton Colliery, County Durham, who had a vein removed for bypass surgery on July 17, said: ?It is absolutely nothing to worry about. You don?t even know it has been done. ?

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