Alcohol used to induce heart attack
Published 24/12/2012 | 14:33
Doctors have saved a patient's life by killing off part of his heart with neat alcohol.
Medics used the rare treatment to induce a controlled heart attack.
Cardiologist Dr Tom Johnson said his patient Ronald Aldom would never have left the Bristol Heart Institute if his condition could not been treated.
The 77-year-old was suffering from a life threatening heart rhythm called ventricular tachycardia (VT) - which occurred as a result of a previous heart attack.
A team of surgeons tried to treat the condition using standard procedures but were unable to safely perform them.
The team decided to treat Mr Aldom, from Portishead near Bristol, with "ethanol ablation".
The treatment has only been conducted a handful of times in the UK to treat VT, Dr Johnson said.
The procedure involves passing a catheter to the heart from the groin which identifies which part of the heart the dangerous rhythms are coming from.
A tiny balloon is then blown up in the heart artery supplying that area and a small amount of absolute alcohol is injected into the artery to produce a small controlled heart attack.
This kills the area of the heart muscle causing the problem allowing the heart's rhythm to return to normal.
Mr Aldom said he was admitted to hospital after his implantable defibrillator (ICD) gave him a "thunderstorm of shocks".
Dr Johnson, an interventional cardiologist, said: "Mr Aldom presented a couple of months ago with this life-threatening type rhythm disturbance, VT, which was related to the damage done to the heart - the scar associated with his previous heart attack.
"The defibrillator is there to try and prevent you from dropping dead in the community - they listen out for the heart doing unusual things - if your heart is doing something unusual like going very, very fast, firstly it will try and pace you out of that rhythm - it will try and suppress the activity within the heart.
"If that fails it will actually illicit a shock of energy across the heart which hopefully straightens things out and puts you back into a normal rhythm.
"It is potentially a rather difficult thing for a patient to live with because there is that threat that it could go off and actually when it does go off it is like being kicked in the chest."
Mr Aldom added: "I was admitted to the Bristol Heart Institute after what doctors described as a thunderstorm of shocks from my ICD.
"I had an ICD fitted about ten years ago after I had a double by-pass operation at the hospital. The device gives my heart a shock when the rhythm becomes abnormal; however, I had about 30 shocks and knew there was something wrong."
Dr Johnson said the team of medics tried to treat Mr Aldom's irregular heartbeat with medication and "electrical ablation" to try and burn away - or kill off - the area of muscle which was generating the irregular heartbeats.
But they were unable to perform the procedures - so treating they decided to treat Mr Aldom with ethanol ablation.
"The alternative, unfortunately, was that he was going to die from his irregular heart rhythm," he said.
Dr Johnson has previously performed the procedure for patients with Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - a condition in which the heart muscle becomes thick - but this was his first use of the procedure to treat VT.
"The patient is doing tremendously well and is doing and is much better," he said.
"He wasn't going to leave hospital unless something was done. There was no other option."
Mr Aldom added: "After the procedure I was out of hospital within about three days.
"I think it's wonderful that the doctors tried everything to help me. If they hadn't have done this I wouldn't be here now."