'People don't stop having heart problems,' says Northwick Park doctor

Staff in the newly refurbished cath lab at Northwick Park hospital

Staff in the newly refurbished cath lab at Northwick Park hospital - Credit: LNWH

A newly refurbished cath lab has opened at Northwick Park Hospital to treat patients with heart conditions.

The £1 million refit means the London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust (LNWH) is now back to three operational labs using the diagnostic imaging equipment at Northwick Park and Ealing hospitals.

Consultant cardiologist Nigel Stephens said: “It has been a tough 12 months but we managed to keep the service going by quickly creating Covid and non-Covid pathways within the department.”

A cath lab is where tests and procedures, including ablation, angiogram, angioplasty and implantation of pacemakers and ICDs, are carried out and patients are usually awake for these procedures.

The cardiology team typically carried out more than 500 angioplasties a year at the Watford Road hospital's two labs, and this year they still successfully completed 400, despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic.

Nigel added: “People don’t stop having heart problems just as they don’t stop having cancer and that has been a concern because we have been hugely disadvantaged by Covid-19.

“I’m proud of the team because they have all put in a lot of extra hours and just did what needed to be done to keep the service going. We are always keen to treat ‘out patients’ as close to home as possible.”

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Planning for the new lab began more than a year ago as the imaging equipment has a finite life of around seven years before needing to be replaced.

The x-ray equipment helps guide minimally invasive procedures by providing the team with detailed images of the arteries and chambers of the heart.

It also facilitates ultrasound, measuring blood flow and optical coherence tomography, which provides high-detailed imaging of cross-sections of the heart, an LNWH spokesperson said.

The two cath labs are expected to accommodate 1,200 angiograms, 750 angioplasties and the fitting of more than 200 pacemakers a year.

LNWH's stroke service at nearby St Mark's Hospital is rated the best in the country.

It is an internationally renowned specialist centre for colorectal disease, based at Northwick Park Hospital.