Delivering care through collaboration
June 09, 2023

Specialists at NHS Golden Jubilee are carrying out a ground-breaking study that could predict how a heart patient responds to future treatment.

Members of the Scottish Adult Congenital Cardiac Service (SACCS), based at the Golden Jubilee University National Hospital in Clydebank, have recruited their first patients to a study that could change the treatment of people who suffer from heart disease in Scotland.

The study, carried out in the Golden Jubilee Research Centre, monitors the blood flow of heart patients while they are at rest and during exercise, which could offer a better quality of life and life-saving treatment in future by predicting outcomes following operations, as well as the development of heart complications in the longer-term.

Consultant Cardiologist Dr Gruschen Veldtman, who is leading the study, said: “We believe that assessing how the heart and the organs respond to different stresses placed upon it will give great insight into the patient’s true condition, and will also likely give us the ability to better predict their likely outcomes following procedures.

“To accomplish this, we are using cardiac echo ultrasound to observe both the heart and other organs’ blood flow when they are at rest, during exercise, holding their breath and carrying out a passive leg raise.

“Being tested while they exercise is currently only used in very specific cases so we will use this information in this study to compare the responses where complications are already present and complications that could develop over time.

“We think this could also give us a better insight into how their condition could affect them and develop into further heart complications in the future.”

Currently, patients with congenital and other forms of heart disease are assessed through physical examination with ultrasound while they rest. Being tested while they exercise is currently only used in very specific cases.

SACCS performs heart surgeries, interventions, detailed assessments and specialised drug therapies for patients with congenital heart disease over the age of 16 (or 14 years if transitioned from paediatric cardiac services). 

The service is part of one of the UK’s  major heart and lung centres at NHS Golden Jubilee, working in collaboration with NHS  Boards all across Scotland, to ensure that there is care available to heart patients as close to home as possible. 

Due to the wide variety of forms of congenital and other heart disease, as well as previous disease or injury, it has been difficult to develop a standardised way to assess, and treat, heart disease.

The strategy developed in this study, combining how body organs respond to exercise, and other forms of stress, offers the potential for highly specific, person-centred care for patients.

SACCS patient Edward Brockett, 28, from Clydebank, is taking part in the study.

Edward, who actually works in the Golden Jubilee’s Research Institute, was born with a hole in his heart and had open heart and lung surgery shortly after he was born, spending his first Christmas in an intensive care unit. He has received care for this atrial septal defect throughout his life.

He said: “In the trial so far I have received an Echo while I was lying down, then I was observed exercising on a bike, and then pushing myself a little further, to see the difference between them and how my blood flows.

“I volunteered for the study because I wanted to help other people, like myself, get better treatment now and in the future.”

Research Nurse, Joyce Thompson, said: “When the patient lies at rest on the examination couch during cardiac echo, it gives valuable, but limited, information because the patient is not doing anything.

“People do things in normal life and different patients will tolerate activity well, poorly, or very poorly, but knowing this will allow doctors to tailor treatment to help.”

Head of Research, Dr Catherine Sinclair, said: “It is quite an important step in establishing a research portfolio at the Golden Jubilee for SACCS patients, in addition to the excellent track record of research we do here as the  leading cardiothoracic  centre in Scotland.

“We all have great hopes that this study, and those in future, will help make an impact in treating heart disease giving patients in Scotland, and further afield, life-saving treatment and a better quality of life.”

Information on the Scottish Adult Congenital Cardiac Service (SACCS): https://hospital.nhsgoldenjubilee.co.uk/a-z-services/scottish-adult-congenital-cardiac-service-saccs

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