Cardiovascular innovation wins award

Posted by mjs76 at Mar 24, 2010 01:50 PM |
A team from the University of Leicester and Glenfield Hospital has scooped a prize for their work in identifying patients at risk of sudden cardiac death.

Led by Dr G Andre Ng from our Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, the team won the Clinical Impact Award at the Da Vinci Health Technology Awards which “recognise scientists, engineers and clinicians working together in the East Midlands to save lives and improve patient care.”

What Dr Ng and colleagues developed is quite complex so here, as they say, comes the science bit:

Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) is not a specific medical condition but a blanket (and frankly self-explanatory) term for unexpected cardiac arrest. It kills approximately 100,000 people in the UK each year – from all age groups – and about three million worldwide. SCD can be prevented by a little device called an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) which is easily inserted in a minor operation and then monitors the patient’s heart rhythms, supplying a small electric jolt if required to restore regularity. (So basically it’s a much smaller, simpler and less drastic version of the rub-them-together-and-shout-clear affair which we have all seen in Casualty and ER.)

The problem is simply identifying who would benefit from an ICD because SCD is, by its very nature, unexpected. Currently the principal method is to cover the patient with leads and produce an electrocardiogram (ECG) but its effectiveness is limited and most people who die from SCD have never been diagnosed with a problem. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has prioritised identification of patients at risk of SCD as a key area for research.

The Leicester team’s innovation is to combine an ECG (which looks like this) with an MRI scan – trundling the patient into one of those big circular machines – which looks something like this. The former records the electrical activity of the heart, the latter shows its shape, size and structure – and can do so in extraordinary detail. Specialist software to combine the two sets of results can give a much clearer picture of which patients might be most at risk from SCD.

Dr Ng and his colleagues are working with the newly established Leicester Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit to recruit 160 patients for a study into the efficacy of this innovative technique.