A Cambridge heart attack victim who was too unwell to undergo a heart transplant was given fresh hope after taking part in pioneering new treatment at Papworth Hospital near Cambridge.
In a hospital first, Clive Reams, 60, underwent the BioVentrix Revivent TC System procedure, in which a large aneurysm which had developed after a heart attack was folded away and excluded from the heart’s left ventricle using ‘micro-anchors’ – similar in appearance to stationery treasury tags – that can be inserted into the body without the need for open-heart surgery.
If left untreated, the stretched scar tissue, or aneurysm, zaps the power from the heart and weakens its ability to pump blood around the body.
Consultant Surgeon Mr Steven Tsui and Consultant Cardiologist Dr Michael O’Sullivan, supported by research nurse Saji Victor, are leading this investigation at Papworth. Mr Tsui said: “This novel procedure allows us to achieve the same result as open-heart surgery without having to use the heart-lung bypass machine. It is much less invasive and less traumatic for the patient.
“The procedure took three hours and went very smoothly. We are very impressed with the outcome so far.”
“This is amazing for me,” said Mr Reams. “I had the chance of slowly dying on medication or taking part in this trial, it was a no-brainer really.”
Mr Reams, a former sports journalist and consultant, suffered a series of heart attacks within the space of a few hours in January 2016. At first he assumed they were just symptoms of his diabetes.
“The first two I thought were the diabetes, or indigestion. I had one at 2am, but I didn’t realise what it was. I went to work in the morning – they took one look at me and sent me straight home. The next one happened at about 4pm and I just went to bed.”
Mr Reams woke up a few hours later still feeling ill. He went downstairs to tell his wife he needed help, but before he could reach her he collapsed.
“I don’t remember an awful lot about it – I was blue-lighted to Papworth and was in intensive care for five days. I always count how ill you are by the number of people who come and see you and stand around your bed – and I had a lot of people. But after five days it was down to about five people so I thought I must be getting better.”
Because of his other medical conditions, Mr Reams was not a candidate for a heart transplant. As a result, his treatment options were limited.
“I had a meeting with my doctor and he broke the news that they couldn’t do anything but keep me alive as long as they could on medication,” said Mr Reams.
Then he was offered the chance to take part in a ground-breaking trial led by a US medical device company – the Clinical Study of the BioVentrix Revivent TC™ System for Treatment of Heart Failure Patients with Left Ventricular Aneurysms.
The procedure uses several pairs of titanium micro-anchors – one of each pair of anchors being inserted through the jugular vein in the neck and the other one inserted through a small incision on the left side of the chest – gently pulled towards each other. When they meet, they exclude the aneurysmal scar tissue from the healthy tissue and allow the heart to work more effectively.
Papworth Hospital expects to treat more patients using the procedure as part of the clinical trial approved by the US’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Mr Tsui said: “We are very pleased to be part of this clinical trial. The unexpected heart attack completely changed Mr Reams’ life – he knows he’s lucky to be alive. Transplant is not an option for him, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have heart failure, and doesn’t need help.
“At Papworth we are always looking at ways to broaden our repertoire and treat more people with heart failure problems.”
Mr Reams, who has two adult children, said the procedure gave him hope that he will have a better quality of life.
“I see it this way – I should have died 18 months ago, and I would have if it hadn’t been for the surgeons at Papworth Hospital. Even if there’s a small chance I’m going to have an open-ended life expectancy, even if they said two years, it’s a lot better than six months.
“And if it doesn’t benefit me personally, hopefully it will benefit other people in my circumstances – who can’t have open-heart surgery.”
Papworth Hospital is the UK’s leading heart and lung hospital treating more than 100,000 patients each year from across the UK. Next year, the hospital will move to a brand new, state-of-the-art hospital on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.