New High-tech medical intervention service - Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PPCI)


Cardiac specialists from Belfast, Antrim, Craigavon and the Ulster hospitals will be pooling their expertise to treat heart attack victims on a 24/7 basis from Monday 30 September.  This new service is located at the Heart Attack Centre, at the Royal Victoria Hospital, and provides a new life saving specialised service for patients from across 75% of Northern Ireland who suffer from a particular type of heart attack – known as STEMI (ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction).

The Minister said; “the launch of the roll out of this service on a regional basis is wonderful news for patients suffering the most severe form of heart attack. Being immediately transported to a dedicated catheterisation laboratory at the Royal Victoria Hospital for life saving treatment is a significant step forward in saving lives.

The service will stretch outside Belfast to covers the population as far as Ballymoney, Magherafelt, Dungannon, and Newry. The service will develop further, next summer 2014, when Altnagelvin hospital opens a second 24/7 Primary PCI service centre to cover the remainder of the population.

The new service will provide primary angioplasty – a high-tech medical intervention known also as Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PPCI) which has only been available to residents of Belfast for the last three years. In the last 12 months 269 patients were treated for primary PCI within Belfast Trust.

However, now due to an agreement between all five Trusts, significantly more people living in the country will be able to receive PCI 24 hours a day, seven days a week. PPCI is a state-of-the-art medical technology that clears blockages in the arteries which are stopping blood from flowing to the heart. When the artery is blocked, typically by a fatty deposit and blood clot, a person will suffer a STEMI heart attack. Patients from outside Belfast who suffered from such an attack will previously have been treated by a paramedic or at their local hospital using a clot busting drug known as thrombolysis.

Dr Niall Herity, Cardiology Clinical Director, said: “If a patient has a STEMI heart attack confirmed by a paramedic, they will be stabilised and taken directly by blue light ambulance to the specialist Heart Attack Centre at Royal Victoria Hospital for treatment. Up to date research and clinical evidence tell us that PPCI is better, and more clinically effective than thrombolysis. PPCI saves lives and patients who have received it will have a better survival rate following a heart attack and there are fewer complications such as strokes and recurring heart attacks. “Making PPCI available to other parts of Northern Ireland is a major step forward."

Dr Brian Armstrong, Co-Director Acute Services within the Belfast trust , said: “If patients suspect that they or a loved one is having a heart attack, they should call for help using 999. An ambulance paramedic will then assess the patient and decide whether the patient needs to be transferred to the specialist PPCI service at Royal Victoria Hospital." Once the patient has received the specialist treatment at the Royal and are assessed as safe to go home they will be discharged to their local hospital and GP for follow up care.

Finally I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the tremendous effort and dedication of all members of the cardiology team. This is an excellent example of multidisciplinary team working to deliver definitive and immediate treatment to a set of high risk patients on a 24/7 basis. I am delighted to see the collaboration with the Northern Ireland ambulance service, and cardiologists from several hospitals pooling their consultant manpower to form one single regional on-call 24/7 Primary PCI rota.