Doctor Pioneers Heart Attack Patch

A Southampton doctor has become the first in the world to use a revolutionary custom-made patch to save the life of a heart attack patient.

Dr Joseph Vettukattil, a consultant congenital cardiologist at Southampton General Hospital, was called on after surgeons felt an invasive open procedure to repair a large hole in the 85-year-old woman's heart was too risky.

As the severe attack created a hole too wide for closure with conventional devices, Dr Vettukattil used his own radical scanning technique - multiplane review 3D echocardiography - to take measurements of the affected area.

The technology allows doctors to see the three dimensions of the heart move simultaneously and "chop" the heart into small pieces to see what is wrong on screen without any physical intervention.

He then emailed the images to a specialist company in Sweden which created the patch and had it delivered within 48 hours.

Dr Vettukattil said: "This lady had suffered a very severe heart attack and surgeons felt it too much of a risk to operate on her, which left the options extremely limited and her chances of survival slim.

"When I looked at the hole, it was large and unsuitable for closure, so I tried my luck and asked a company whether they could help.

"They designed it precisely to my drawings and the device was flown in within 48 hours."

Dr Vettukattil said the case could prove to be a milestone in treatment options for patients who suffer severe heart attacks.

He added: "With the information available from such sensitive scanning as 3D echocardiography, we could see the introduction of a specific device to address particular problems such as acute heart attacks and this process is already under way."

A spokesman for Southampton General Hospital said the patient was discharged to her local hospital seven days after the procedure and was now in a residential home for physio and rehabilitation.