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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 November 2005, 01:33 GMT
Post-op heart therapy saves lives
Hospital ward
The study focused on patients in intensive care
Up to 3,000 lives could be saved if all hospitals used a technique which stimulates the heart of patients who have had major surgery, a study says.

Only a third of hospitals use Goal Directed Therapy (GDT) which ensures oxygen is kept flowing around the body.

But the team from London's St George's Hospital urged all NHS trusts to use it after finding it cut the post-op complications and infections.

The study was featured in the Critical Care journal.

More than three million people undergo surgery each year with 40,000 ending up in intensive care - one of five of whom die.

Organs

GDT uses a special monitoring device attached to a patient which keeps a careful watch of blood flow and the amount of oxygen being delivered to the key organs.

If oxygen levels drop too low, a drug - dopexamine - is given to make the heart beat faster to push more oxygen around.

The team studied 122 intensive care patients, 62 of which received GDT, while the others were given intravenous fluids to keep oxygen levels up.

By optimising the heart function of patients who are at high risk around the time of their operation, we can reduce the risk of them developing infections or complications
Dr Anna Batchelor, of the Intensive Care Society

Researchers found over a period of 60 days, 44% of patients given the therapy suffered complications ranging from organ failure to infections compared to two-thirds for those not offered the treatment.

And the length of stay fell by 12 days from 29.5 for the control group to 17.5.

Saving lives

Lead researcher Professor David Bennett said: "About 8,000 patients who end up in intensive care after surgery will die.

"We estimate that if this sort of protocol was implemented nationwide, just for intensive care patients, at a conservative estimate you would be saving 2,000 to 3,000 lives a year."

And he added hospitals would also save 100m because patients had to spent less time in hospital after the operation.

"St George's saved 1.8m last year by implementing this simple protocol."

Dr Anna Batchelor, president of the Intensive Care Society, said: "The St George's experience is excellent news for thousands of patients who undergo major surgery in this country every year.

"By optimising the heart function of patients who are at high risk around the time of their operation, we can reduce the risk of them developing infections or complications so that more patients survive and leave hospital earlier."

The Department of Health said it was up to individual NHS trusts to decide what treatments should be used.




SEE ALSO:
NHS 'facing winter beds crisis'
26 Nov 03 |  Health
NHS 'failing critically ill'
23 Jan 03 |  Health


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