Royal Free heart surgeons first in the UK to use new AI technology

Dr Sundeep Kalra, Adam Adamou and Dr Jonathan Hill

Dr Sundeep Kalra - cardiology surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital - with heart surgery patient Adam Adamou and Dr Jonathan Hill from the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust - Credit: Royal Free NHS Trust

Heart surgeons at the Royal Free have been pioneering the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to help with complicated procedures. 

Dr Sundeep Kalra, a consultant cardiologist at the Royal Free, has taken advantage of innovative new software which uses AI to enhance traditional imaging techniques to make fitting stents in the arteries of people who have suffered a heart attack easier.

Doctors from the Hampstead hospital were the first in the UK to use the new technology - called Ultreon 1.0 - which uses AI to help map calcium-based blockages in blood vessels and measure the width of those blood vessels.

This helps medics make the best decisions possible about precisely where stents should go when carrying out a complicated procedure called a "percutaneous coronary intervention" to help patients recover from heart attacks.

Adam Adamou, 76, from Winchmore Hill, was one of the first patients to be treated using the groundbreaking tech, closely followed by Vina Khatri, 61, from Barnet. 

Both patients were lucky enough to have Dr Kalra operate on them and use the new software.

Dr Kalra, said: “As with other hospitals up and down the country the Royal Free London’s capacity has been stretched throughout both waves of COVID-19.

"Indeed, we were one of the worst affected trusts in the country, with cardiology facing a particularly heavy burden."

He said that not only had his department been able to continue with elective treatment safely, it had been able to "continue to innovate during this time of clinical pressure". 

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“Going forward this will enable more cardiologists, thanks to the enhanced visualisation and guidance, to carry out a procedure which until now has been limited to a few specialists,” Dr Kalra added.

Ms Khatri said she had been delighted to receive the high-tech treatment. 

"It’s a relief to have had the second surgery, which was planned. Now I just want to get back to enjoying a normal life, especially playing with my four grandchildren.

"Everything was really well explained to us and anything that helps the doctors do their job is fantastic.”

The technology was developed by global firm Abbott, and it will now be rolled out across hospitals around the country - but the Royal Free was the first in the UK to try it out.