Page last updated at 11:36 GMT, Thursday, 19 November 2009

Milestone for pioneering surgery


The operation has a 95% survival rate

Surgeons at a hospital in Cambridgeshire have performed 500 operations to clear blood clots on the lungs of seriously ill people.

Papworth Hospital is the only centre in the UK which performs the pulmonary endarterectomy surgery (PEA).

Previously, the lung needed to be removed and a transplant carried out.

The hospital said 95% of patients with chronic pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure) survive the operation, carried out at Papworth since 2000.

Experts in pulmonary hypertension from across the UK are taking part in an event at Jesus College, Cambridge, on Thursday to learn about the procedure and celebrate the surgical milestone.

Improved treatments

The procedure is only carried out at two other centres in Europe - one in Italy and one in France.

Patient's body is cooled to below 20 degrees
Blood flow is stopped completely for up to 30 minutes
The lining of the pulmonary arteries is removed

It takes one day to perform the operation and two procedures each week are carried out at Papworth.

Mr David Jenkins, consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at Papworth Hospital, said: "It is very rewarding to see patients who were extremely ill and previously struggled for breath, able to walk and enjoy their lives after the surgery.

"It is one of the biggest operations we perform, but results in a dramatic improvement in both quality of life and survival."

Dr Joanna Pepke-Zaba from the pulmonary hypertension (PH) service said: "Fifteen years ago, PH was a diagnosis with no real treatment.

"The situation is far more positive now and treatments have improved beyond measure."

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