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Friday, 5 May, 2000, 23:04 GMT 00:04 UK
Heart disease radiation advance
Heart disease patient
Patients with recurring heart disease will benefit
A radiation treatment for heart disease that was previously unavailable to UK patients will be used for the first time in a British hospital this month.

Brachytherapy, which involves very low doses of radiation and is usually used to treat cancer, will be used for angina sufferers at Leicester University Hospital.

The benefits of the therapy are that it saves the patient having an operation and it relieves the symptoms

Dr Tony Gershlick
It will be given to patients who have had previous treatment for the condition but have suffered tissue scarring.

The first three patients to benefit from the advance will be treated by consultant cardiologist Dr Tony Gershlick, who has been given the first licence in the UK to carry out the procedure.

The patients have already undergone balloon angioplasty treatment - where a tiny balloon is expanded within arteries to remove narrowing.

Around 23,000 angioplasties are done in the UK each year.

Stents - tiny wire meshes - are also inserted in the arteries of some patients to prevent the arteries narrowing again.

Scarred arteries

Among those given stents, around 10% suffer scarring of the tissue and, as a result, recurring angina.

Dr Gershlick told BBC News Online: "If there is re-narrowing of the stent, the optimal way of delivering it currently is to deliver radiation therapy.

"It is a tiny, tiny dose compared to, say, a chest x-ray. The radiation is delivered to the site of the stent with the scar tissue."

The radiation used is "moderately-safe" beta-emitting radiation which does not pose a risk to the staff delivering the treatment.

The procedure is already available in much of the world, and Dr Gershlick expects other doctors in the UK to start applying for licences.

He added: "The benefits of the therapy are that it saves the patient having an operation and it relieves the symptoms."

Brachytherapy is likely to be given to up to 100 patients a year in Leicester alone.

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21 Mar 00 | Medical notes
Heart disease
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