New Line Of Defence For Heart Attacks

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Primary angioplasty is set to become the nation's first line of treatment for heart attacks, saving hundreds of lives each year, according to the National Infarct Angioplasty Project (NIAP) final report launched today by the Department of Health.

The NIAP study has concluded that is both feasible and cost-effective to offer angioplasty as an emergency treatment for 97% of the population of England.

Currently, thrombolysis, the injection of life saving clot busting drugs, is the most common treatment for heart attack patients. Primary angioplasty, is widely believed to provide superior outcomes, provided that it can be delivered quickly. Angioplasty is the procedure of inserting, then inflating, a small balloon in the blocked coronary artery, leaving a rigid support to restore blood flow.

Clinical evidence shows that using angioplasty as the main treatment for heart attack patients will:

* Save around 240 more lives per year

* Reduce complications from treatment of heart attack

* Reduce reoccurrence of heart attack

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* Prevent around 260 strokes per year

* Decrease the length of stay in hospital for primary angioplasty patients

The NIAP report concludes that 97% of people in England can receive the treatment within acceptable treatment times (120 minutes from call for professional help to treatment). Those who cannot get treatment on time, or those who are unable to have angioplasty for health reasons, will still be treated with early thrombolysis.

Health Secretary, Alan Johnson said: "The national roll out of the primary angioplasty strategy recommended in the NIAP report will save hundreds of lives each year and improve outcomes for many more heart attack patients.

"The Department of Health's investment in this study reinforces its ongoing commitments to tackling cardiovascular heart disease and using clinical evidence to identify the most effective health services. Compared to 1996, nearly 33,000 lives were saved last year in heart disease, stroke and related diseases and inequalities in the death rate from these diseases have been narrowing for the past eight years.

"Primary angioplasty is at the forefront of clinical innovation and it is a testament to staff and management in the NHS that it can be offered quickly and expertly in specialist centres across the country."

National Clinical Director for Heart Disease and Stroke, Roger Boyle said: "As well as providing further evidence of the efficacy of angioplasty, this report shows that a primary angioplasty can be offered to heart attack patients in almost all parts of the country. This is a very positive conclusion in terms of improving outcomes for heart attack patients and ultimately saving lives."

NHS commissioners, cardiac network and providers are expected to take forward the report's good practice guidance according to local priorities and in line with Professor Lord Darzi Next Stage Review.

The Department of Health will monitor the extent of rollout and patient outcomes and help clinicians to benchmark progress with clinical performance indicators.

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