New heart attack treatment could save lives

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The Independent Online

A new method of emergency treatment for heart attacks could save 250 lives a year, the Department of Health said today.

A government study concluded that switching treatment to angioplasty, a procedure that involves inserting and inflating a small balloon in the blocked coronary artery, will saves lives, money and reduce the amount of time spent in hospital.



Currently, the most common treatment for heart attacks is thrombolysis, the injection of clot busting drugs, however, angioplasty is now considered a more effective alternative.



The report published today by the National Infarct Angioplasty Project (NIAP) said that the inflation of a rigid support balloon reduces patients' risk of reoccurring heart attack and could prevent around 260 strokes a year.



The NIAP report concludes that 97% of the UK population could receive angioplasty within the 120-minute treatment window - those areas unable to meet this timescale will continue to use thrombolysis.



Health Secretary Alan Johnson said that rolling out the angioplasty strategy across the country will "save hundreds of lives each year and improve outcomes for many more heart attack patients".



He said: "Primary angioplasty is at the forefront of clinical innovation and it is a testament to staff and management in the NHS that it can be offered quickly and expertly in specialist centres across the country."



The British Heart Foundation welcomed the move to switch to an angioplasty strategy.



However, it warned: "The challenge now is to turn this recommendation into a reality.



"Primary angioplasty requires expert centres to be open 24 hours a day and close co-ordination between hospital and ambulance services. This will need extra investment in staff and facilities. The health service must ensure that sufficient resources are committed for this to occur.



"We must not replace a first class thrombolysis service, which is proven to save lives, with a second class angioplasty service which might not."



Heart attacks currently kill one person every six minutes in the UK and every year around 146,000 will suffer an attack.