Help at hand for heart patients

THE Conquest Hospital has become one of the first in the country to have a high-tech machine that helps the recovery of heart attack patients.

A new piece of equipment that measures platelet function in the blood in patients has been purchased by the department thanks to a kind donation from local Freemasons.

The Derwent Lodge No 40 and the Lodge of St Michael No 4426 raised £7,000 with another £2,000 yet to come from the East Sussex Freemasons.

The equipment costs £5,500 and measures the platelets reactivity in the bloodstream of a person who has had a heart attack, which allows the doctors to treat them with the correct anti-platelet medication.

Platelets cause the blood to clot naturally. If the platelets collect in a coronary artery it causes a heart attack and treatment with anti-platelet agents can help prevent this. Controlling the amount of platelets is vital in patients who have undergone a procedure to insert a stent into their heart. A stent is a small tube that is placed in a person who has narrow or weak arteries to help their blood flow.

The Conquest performs around 400 stent procedures every year.

Dr Robert Gerber, consultant cardiologist, said: “There are only three of these machines in use in the country and we are very grateful to the Freemasons for their donation. Coronary stents have revolutionised the treatment of patients who have suffered heart attacks. But there is an area of concern that it can lead to a stent clot in a very small number of people. Clots only occur in around one per cent of people who have had a stent but of those people around 50 per cent can die. This is the group we are focusing on and is where this new machine is so useful. We give people medication to control their platelets but the problem in the past has been that it is very difficult to measure platelet function.

“This new machine accurately measures platelet function and so we can pin-point what medication patients need from the start. This is better for the patient and also cuts down on wasting medicine that is not effective, which saves the hospital money.”

The Freemasons agreed to buy the machine after one of them underwent a heart procedure at the hospital. Frank Young, of the East Sussex Freemasons, met Mr Gerber while he was having a pacemaker fitted.

He said: “We are delighted to be able to help our local hospitals and we hope a lot of people benefit from this piece of equipment.”