The magic balloon helping hospital scale new heights in heart treatment
�A UCLH doctor has filmed inside a beating human heart – for the first time ever in Britain.
Using a new balloon, camera and laser technique, cardiologist Dr Oliver Segal was able to see Scott Rosser’s heart in a bid to cure one of the most common cardiac conditions.
The procedure was carried out at The Heart Hospital, which is part of the UCLH.
Mr Rosser, of Croydon, had a heart rate of up to 202 beats a minute despite medication.
He suffers from atrial fibrillation – a chaotic electrical conduction in the heart resulting in rapid, irregular heart beat, causing palpitations, breathlessness and tiredness.
The condition is common with up to 200,000 new British sufferers a year.
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But, until now, treatment was performed ‘blind’, using wires inserted through a hole in the upper leg. Doctors then used computer models to decide how much tissue to damage to create a disruptive barrier to the dangerous electrical rhythm.
As the heart often repaired itself, doctors can be forced to carry out multiple operations.
In the pioneering operation, Dr Segal used a unique technique to look inside Mr Rosser’s heart. He then created a small blood-free zone using a water-filled balloon and directed a laser with absolute precision.
“Of course surgeons have seen inside a human heart before – but this is different,” said Dr Segal. “Heart surgeons have had to cut the whole chest open.
“In this case, you are using keyhole surgery and it is a lot less dangerous for the patient. It was incredibly exciting. I had seen the procedure in Germany and in some online learning tools as part of my training.
“But carrying out the procedure on your own patient for the first time in Britain is amazing.
“For years, we have had to imagine what we’re seeing from X-rays and computer modelling. Now we can see it in the flesh, which is fascinating.”
Although the balloon does film the inside of the heart, the image it projects back is not like something out of a 3D textbook with the whole heart is on show.
Dr Segal said: “You might think you get to see the whole heart, but the heart is filled with blood. So you actually see a small part of it where the balloon displaces some of this blood.”
“Being able to see exactly what you are doing means that you can be much more accurate with the laser and target much more successfully. This ensures that you do not create gaps in the barrier and the current is disrupted far more effectively and safely, and will lead to better results.”