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7 August 2018

‘We’re a specialised centre within a specialised centre’

In Focus: The Pulmonary Vascular Disease Unit (PVDU)

The Pulmonary Vascular Disease Unit (PVDU) at Royal Papworth Hospital is internationally recognised for the management of patients with pulmonary vascular disease and Pulmonary Hypertension (PH).

Pulmonary hypertension is a condition which affects the small blood vessels in the lungs. Blood pressure in the lung vessels is increased and this leads to right heart failure. There are different types of PH with a number of causes, meaning that there is no standard approach to treating all PH patients. Instead, the PVDU team takes great care to combine available complex therapies for each individual patient, to help improve symptoms and allow them to manage their condition.

The team – made up of consultant physicians, radiology consultants, specialist and ward nurses, and research and administrative staff – investigates, educates and provides each patient with the ongoing care they need.

Nicola Speed is one of four Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH) specialist nurses in the hospital – there is a separate specialist nursing team that looks after PH patients suitable for surgical intervention.

Within Nicola’s small team, the nurses rotate their duties each week: “On Friday we could be offering advice and training to patients and staff on the ward, and the following Monday morning we could be travelling to one of our outreach clinics in Norfolk, Coventry or Plymouth.

“We’re there to support the patient at every stage – from initial diagnosis, regular medical review and surgical management, through to home care.”

Between them, the PAH specialist nursing team see, care for and educate around 60 patients a week, as well as conducting telephone clinics for around 100 patients a week. The hospital is also the only centre in the UK offering Pulmonary Endarterectomy surgery (PEA) for Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension (CTEPH). The first operation was carried out in 1997, and since then, more than 1,200 patients have undergone the procedure at Royal Papworth.

However, not all CTEPH patients are able to have the surgery – these patients are then considered for Balloon Pulmonary Angioplasty (BPA), or treatment with vasodilator therapy.

PVDU celebrated another achievement earlier this year as Royal Papworth Hospital became the national centre for the innovative BPA procedure, which can be performed by a wider inter-speciality team to improve the pressures in the lungs and quality of life for CTEPH patients.