Edinburgh surgeons carry out Q&A during heart op

The ERI team's operations are viewed by fellow professionals at the EuroPCR conference in Paris. Picture: contributed
The ERI team's operations are viewed by fellow professionals at the EuroPCR conference in Paris. Picture: contributed
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YOU might think that holding a human life in your hands while performing pioneering heart surgery would be a stressful enough task.

But city consultants carried out their day jobs while being subject to scrutiny from thousands of their fellow professionals, sitting hundreds of miles away at one of the most important cardiology conferences in the world.

Not only that, they answered tweets and oral questions from their audience during operations, while being filmed by camera crews who beamed live images back to Paris.

The Edinburgh Royal Infirmary team took part in the project, with the consent of their patients, to spread knowledge of the incredible new procedures that are being carried out at the hospital.

They include transcatheter aortic valve implantation, which sees heart surgery carried out through a hole in a patient’s leg, the use of an intravascular ultrasound catheter which allows surgeons to see inside blood vessels through the use of sound waves, and operating a infrared camera that can relay images from inside arteries.

Dr Neal Uren, right, NHS Lothian’s clinical director for cardiac services at the Edinburgh Heart Centre, carried out the four operations which were broadcast live to the EuroPCR conference, which attracts the some of the world’s best cardiologists.

He said: “A lot of cardiologists won’t have seen these techniques being used. Before they do it themselves, it’s good to see someone else doing it. It’s a bit like looking on YouTube for a video on how to change a car tyre – you get a feel for how you would do it yourself.”

A camera crew was present in the operating theatres alongside the six-strong operating team, with cables leading to a satellite truck parked outside the ERI.

Dr Uren said: “We do it live so that the audience can interact with us. We might be being watched by 1000 other doctors, and in the auditorium a panel can speak to us. There’s also screen with Twitter or texts coming up.

“It is quite stressful and there’s a little bit more pressure because we’re talking to people and trying to keep to time, and also making sure we’re doing the procedure as well as we can. It’s interactive but we know the patient always comes first. Generally speaking patients are happy to do it, they know it’s for education.”

Potential patients were pre-selected around a month in advance for the four operations, with just one declining to participate in the broadcast.

It is the first time an ERI team has taken part in a project on a European scale. Dr Uren’s department was one of just two in Britain to be involved in the transmissions.