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24 December 2012

Alcohol saves heart patient’s life

A team of cardiologists at the Bristol Heart Institute have saved the life a 77 year old man by using neat alcohol to induce a heart attack.

Dr Edward Duncan, Dr Glyn Thomas and Dr Tom Johnson were the first doctors in the South West of England to perform the procedure called ethanol ablation to treat a life threatening heart rhythm called Ventricular Tachycardia (VT).

The procedure involves passing a catheter to the heart from the groin. The catheter identifies which part of the heart the dangerous rhythms are coming from. A tiny balloon is then blown up in the heart artery supplying that area and a small amount of absolute alcohol is injected into the artery to produce a small controlled heart attack. This kills the area of the heart muscle causing the problem allowing the heart's rhythm to return to normal.

Mr Aldom, 77 from Portishead near Bristol, says:  "I was admitted to the Bristol Heart Institute after what doctors described as a thunderstorm of shocks from my ICD.  I had an ICD fitted about ten years ago after I had a double by-pass operation at the hospital. The device gives my heart a shock when the rhythm becomes abnormal; however, I had about 30 shocks and knew there was something wrong."

Dr Glyn Thomas, consultant cardiologist at the Bristol Heart Institute, says:

"Initially, along with Dr Edward Duncan and Dr Tom Johnson we undertook a procedure called VT ablation to restore the normal rhythm of Mr Aldom's heart. This specialist technique involves trying to disrupt the electrical circuit in the heart by burning part of the muscle from inside using a catheter passed from the groin.

"Unfortunately, in Mr Aldom's case we needed to try something else because we found that he had a large blood clot in the area we were trying to burn. We were concerned that we might release the clot causing a stroke.

Dr Duncan says: "We then decided to try a different specialist procedure called epicardial ablation, where you go in under the ribcage with a catheter (rather than through a catheter in the leg) aiming to burn cells on the outside of the heart muscle. Unfortunately we couldn't reach the target cells this way.

"So, a multi-disciplinary team of cardiologists, surgeons and anaesthetists at the BHI met to discuss the options left for Mr Aldom. The only other alternative was a procedure called ethanol ablation."

Dr Johnson has performed this procedure for treatment of patients with bulky hearts but he explains: 'this is the first time an ethanol ablation procedure has been performed because a blood clot has prevented more conventional treatments.'

Mr Aldom continues: "After the procedure I was out of hospital within about three days. I think it's wonderful that the doctors tried everything to help me.  If they hadn't have done this I wouldn't be here now."