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NHS Western Isles leads the way with pioneering heart health technology which saves islanders seeking treatment on the mainland

NHS Western Isles is the first health board in Scotland to use pioneering HeartFlow technology. 
Picture supplied by NHS Western Isles
NHS Western Isles is the first health board in Scotland to use pioneering HeartFlow technology. Picture supplied by NHS Western Isles

Pioneering technology used to diagnose and fight heart disease is being credited with “transforming” patient treatment and care off the west coast of Scotland.

Western Isles Hospital says its use of HeartFlow Analysis is helping its island population avoid unnecessary invasive procedures and reduce the need for lengthy travel to the mainland.

It has prevented three-day round trips to the mainland for care and reduced hospital visits and the time spent in clinical settings – which has become all the more important amidst the pandemic.

NHS Western Isles is the first health board in the country to begin using the world-leading technology, which it says is the most specialised examination provided.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is one of Scotland’s biggest killers and the adoption of the technology means many patients who may have the condition can be diagnosed within a matter of days, and in one hospital visit.

Debra Vickers, NHS Western Isles Nurse Consultant for Cardiology said: “The HeartFlow Analysis has helped us transform patient care across our chain of islands.

“The detailed insights we’re able to get from using it in conjunction with CT scanning means we can confidently identify those who can be treated with medication alone.

“This makes a huge difference to our patients who could otherwise face a three-day journey to Glasgow for further investigations.

“Not only is this a lot to ask of our older patients but it is also costly for the board.

“We’re a small team at NHS Western Isles but we’re proud to be the first in Scotland to offer this service to patients.”

Healthcare staff, from left, Debra Vickers, Dr David Rigby and Jane MacDonald. Supplied by NHS Western Isles

HeartFlow Analysis takes data from a coronary CT scan and then leans upon highly trained analysts to create a personalised, digital 3D model of the patient’s coronary arteries.

Its algorithms solve millions of equations to simulate blood flow in a patient’s arteries to help clinicians assess the impact of any blockages.

This helps clinicians quickly diagnose CHD and decide the appropriate treatment for patients.

In many cases, the information provided by the system enables physicians to avoid recommending invasive diagnostic procedures, which can carry their own risks of complications.

Jane MacDonald, radiology manager, NHS Western Isles added: “The cardiac CT scan with the HeartFlow Analysis has become the most specialised examination we perform.

“We work with some fantastic doctors on the mainland, but we don’t have a cardiology consultant or permanent radiologist on the island.

“So it has been a great tool in helping us assess patients and get a diagnosis for them quickly.

“In the midst of the pandemic, it has helped reduce the number of times people have to come to the hospital and prioritise further investigations or interventions for those who need it most.”

The technology creates a 3D model of the heart. Supplied by NHS Western Isles

February marks National Heart Month and the health board is encouraging anyone experiencing symptoms of heart disease to seek medical advice, reassured it shouldn’t require patients to visit the mainland for onward investigation.

With CT scans and the HeartFlow Analysis, diagnosis and a treatment plan can be put in place in a matter of days.

Lance Scott, chief commercial officer at HeartFlow said: “The global pandemic has certainly increased appetite for digital technologies that are able to assist medical professionals with efficiencies and the diagnosis of disease.

“And in an island setting such as the Western Isles, it can be an invaluable tool for teams who are unable to perform invasive investigations on site.

“The CT-HeartFlow pathway has meant patients spend less time in hospitals and improves their hospital experience with faster outcomes.”

“The NHS continues to lead the world with its approach to CHD diagnosis, one of the country’s biggest killers.”

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