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Heart-stopping TV in quest for a cure; Patients given injections of alcohol to induce a cardiac arrest.

Byline: Mark Hookham

THREE patients were given heart attacks in a live television broadcast to thousands of viewers.

Cardiologists Dr Rod Stables and Dr Raphael Perry injected alcohol directly into the patients' hearts, inducing cardiac arrests in a bid to cure a rare heart condition.

The three consecutive operations at Liverpool's Cardiothoracic Centre were broadcast live to 3,000 medical experts at the European Society of Cardiology Conference in Berlin.

Michael Clarke, 54, from St Helens, Adrian Leech, 31, from Southport, and David Dowling, 41, from Crosby, were fully conscious when surgeons injected pure alcohol into their hearts.

Dr Stables and Dr Perry were asked questions during the operations by an international panel of surgeons led by Dr Ulrich Sigwart, who pioneered the technique six years ago.

The surgeons in Berlin viewed the procedures via a satellite link up on three giant screens three metres high and six metres wide.

The patients were last night recovering from their operations and being comforted by their families.

Michael Clarke, who has been suffering heart problems for two years, said the operation was uncomfortable but not painful.

``My chest is very sore but I'm feeling OK. It made my chest feel tight, as if someone was standing on me but I was surprised it was notmore painful. ``Dr Stables was great at explaining what was happening and what it would feel like.

``Watching the heart monitors was reassuring and kept my mind off the injection,'' he said.

Dr Stables said having thousands of people looking over his shoulder did not add to the stress of the operations. He said: ``I actually found some of the suggestions from the conference in Berlin quite helpful.

``The delegates were sensitive of when to be quiet and when to ask questions and offer advice.

``I would be lying if I said it was not stressful but we are used to the procedure and even without cameras on us it can be a stressful situation.''

The pioneering procedure helps reduce the effects of hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, which is an unusual thickness of the wall of the heart. When the heart beats, the muscle wall contracts and bulges into the pathway of the blood trying to leave the heart, causing an obstruction.

The technique involves using X-ray images to guide a tube through an artery from the groin to the heart.

Alcohol is passed through the tube, causing a heart attack which kills off the excess muscle.

Dr Sables carried out the first procedure two years ago on a Warrington man, John Littlewood, and there have been 20 UK operations since.

The cardiologists were assisted by two teams of six nurses, radiographers and medical technicians in two adjacent operating theatres.

Radiographer Janette Rekatas helped Dr Stables with the first operation on David Dowling.

She said: ``We were very conscious of the cameras because of all the wires in the operating theatre.

``Some of the team found it nerveracking but everyone did a brilliant job and I'm sure the conference in Berlin will have learnt a lot from the operations.''

A film crew with two fixed cameras and a smaller hand-held camera were used to film the operations.


ON AIR: Rod Stables operates while a cameraman films his every move and, above, Michael Clarke recovers after the operation
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 3, 2002
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