6 December 2021

Royal Papworth Hospital has launched a new service for patients from across the East of England with a previously untreatable heart condition called refractory angina. 

Angina is chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscles. Symptoms can be controlled with bypass surgery, the insertion of stents, or medication to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke and allow someone to live a largely normal life.

Refractory angina is when a patient has exhausted these options but still has long-lasting symptoms, leading to increased pain and breathlessness, affecting quality of life. 

However, an innovative procedure called a coronary sinus reducer is now offering a new hope to these patients.

An hour-glass shaped mesh device
The coronary sinus reducer device, made by Neovasc Inc.

It involves cardiology teams inserting a small, stainless-steel, hourglass-shaped device (the reducer) into the main vein carrying blood out of the heart (coronary sinus). This narrows the sinus, elevating the pressure and helping to redistribute blood to where it is needed most.  

The procedure was successfully performed on three patients at Royal Papworth Hospital last month by a team including cardiologists, nurses, radiographers and cardiac physiologists. 

“We are delighted to bring this new service to Royal Papworth Hospital to relieve symptoms for patients in the Eastern region with persistent angina pain”, said Dr Stephen Hoole, Consultant Cardiologist

“People with refractory angina have historically been a difficult patient group to treat, but initial results when using this device show that it improves angina for most patients, who can expect a better quality of life. 

“While this is not a total cure for refractory angina, it is an important step forward in the treatment of this debilitating condition.

A person on a hospital bed gives a thumbs up.
Mark Hudson from Cambridgeshire was one of the first patients to have the new treatment.

One of the first patients to undergo this procedure was Mark Hudson, 63, a farmer from St Ives in Cambridgeshire.

He said: “I had a quadruple heart bypass operation more than 20 years ago, had a heart attack in 2013 and have since then had nine stents fitted. I am also on the maximum drugs I can be, but despite all of this my angina has continued to get progressively worse. 

“I have been a farmer for 40 years, but I have gradually had to scale back what I can do and by lunchtime most days I am unable to do anything more because my chest pain is so bad. 

“I am very grateful to the team at Royal Papworth Hospital for launching this new service. It is exciting to think that my symptoms will be less severe and I can look forward to a better quality of life.” 

“I would like to thank the team for all their hard work and ensuring that Royal Papworth Hospital becomes one of the first centres to offer this pioneering treatment,” added Dr Hoole.

A group of people wearing blue and red scrubs, standing.
The team involved in the first cases at Royal Papworth Hospital.

“I would also like to extend my thanks to Dr Ranil De Silva from Royal Brompton and Harefield in London, where the treatment has also recently been introduced, who came to supervise our team through the first few cases. 

“We hope this will be a successful new service for the East of England region.”