How I see inside your heart

Surgeons in theatre
Future health: with the EchoNavigator, Philips aim to get people out of the hospital faster and with less discomfort

A surgeon’s view of the technological advances that are already transforming cardiac treatment in both hospital and home.

More than 17.5 million deaths worldwide were attributed to heart disease in 2015, and it remains one of the biggest causes of hospital admissions in the UK. It accounts for more costs to the NHS than any other chronic illness.

The good news is that new technology is driving gains in diagnosis and treatment, helping to reduce patient recovery time and pain. In some cases, patients who have undergone a serious heart procedure are now returning home on the same day; open-heart surgery patients previously required a seven to 10-day recovery period.

This short turnaround time has been made possible by an increase in non-invasive, image-guided procedures that allow a cardiologist to assess a lesion without the need for open-heart surgery.

EchoNavigator combines ultrasound and X-ray imaging to give a complete picture of the heart’s soft tissue structures

For example, a cardiologist can now access the coronary arteries by inserting a thin flexible tube into a vessel in the groin or arm that is guided into the heart. A dye is then inserted into the veins, allowing the coronary arteries to be seen using X-ray imaging. This type of procedure is expected to quadruple before 2020.

Prof Mark Monaghan, director of non-invasive cardiology at King’s College Hospital, London, believes that new medical imaging technologies such as this will play a key role in future advances in patient care.

“Technology offers tremendous benefits for the cardiologist and the surgeon, as well as the patient,” he says. “Cardiologists and surgeons can diagnose more precisely, plan more accurately, use minimally invasive procedures and have better information for aftercare; while patients will experience less pain and faster recovery.

“A system such as [Philips’] EchoNavigator gives full and real-time information to inform a much more predictable, safer and quicker procedure. This and other imaging innovations help us provide increasingly better standards of care to our patients.”

EchoNavigator combines ultrasound and X-ray imaging to give a complete picture of the heart’s soft tissue structures. In the video below, retired police officer Christine Arnott talks about her leaking mitral valve, which had caused five near-fatal cardiac arrests. Her weakened system would not have survived another operation – but her doctors were able to use EchoNavigator to perform non-invasive surgery, giving Ms Arnott a new lease of life.

“The echo navigator is a useful device,” her doctor Stephen Duffy says. “We get precise information from the echo pictures that we can precisely correlate with our fluoroscopy images, so that we can know exactly where we’re positioning our devices. We can be very precise, which makes it a much safer procedure. Christine was a great candidate for his innovative device, because of her high-risk features.”

“If it wasn't for that equipment they wouldn't be able to do my surgery,” Ms Arnott agrees. “I feel privileged to still be here to enjoy life.”

I envision a time when all surgical procedures in cardiology, neurology and oncology will be done through minimally invasive treatmentBert van Meurs

The aim of such technologies is to get people out of the hospital faster and with less discomfort. Bert van Meurs, senior vice-president and general manager for the image guided therapy business group at Philips, predicts there will be even smarter therapeutic devices in the future that not only guide treatment through vascular imaging, but also deliver the disease therapy – an integrated solution in one device.

He says: “I envision a time when all surgical procedures in cardiology, neurology, oncology and even areas like spinal surgery and orthopaedics will be done through minimally invasive treatment – supported by intelligent imaging systems and devices.”


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