Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to help provide life-saving operations for heart patients in what is said to be a Scottish first.
Bosses at at NHS Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, said patients there who need stents fitted in their heart arteries are the first in Scotland to have the procedure performed using guided AI technology.
During percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) operations to treat coronary artery disease, stents are placed in narrowed coronary arteries to keep them open and maintain blood flow to the heart.
Cardiologists at the hospital carry out planned PCIs using the new Ultreon 1.0 Software which merges the existing imaging technique of Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) – which gives a view inside an artery – with AI for better visualisation, enabling faster, more accurate decisions.
Using both tools together gives cardiologists a comprehensive view inside patients’ heart arteries, helping them to determine the best treatment for arterial calcification.
The software speeds up the operation, using infrared lasers and AI to measure how much of the artery is diseased and the size of stent required.
This helps ensure stents are more accurately fitted, leading to improved long term health for patients.
Consultant Interventional Cardiologist Dr Stuart Watkins said: “As people get older they can develop hardening of the heart arteries due to calcification.
“This makes treating the arteries difficult for cardiologists because calcium is very hard and it can limit the expansion of our stents.
“It’s very important to identify calcification in the heart arteries, which isn’t always apparent from doing a basic coronary angiogram.
“OCT gives us extremely detailed pictures within the arteries so that we can pick up calcification and determine the best treatment strategy before we put stents in.
“Ultreon helps us quickly measure how much of the artery is diseased and what size of stent you have to put in, without taking too much time to do it.”
One of the first patients treated with the new technology at the hospital was 85-year-old Chris Stevenson, originally from Duntocher, West Dunbartonshire, but now living in Larkhall, South Lanarkshire.
After suffering from heart problems from age 50, his condition worsened recently and he needed four stents fitted.
The retired mechanical engineer was awake for the three-hour procedure and hopes it will help him be more active.
He said: “I’ve been taking things quite slowly at the moment. My wife Betty won’t even let me do my normal chores, but I feel fantastic.
“I’ve also had two knee replacements so I haven’t been able to do the hillwalking I love, but I would like to get back to just being able to go out and keep active, so hopefully this latest treatment will help me do that.
“I know how hard the specialists worked for me, as well as all the staff who booked me in and cared for me on the ward. I can’t praise them highly enough, they were amazing.”
The hospital’s medical director Dr Mark MacGregor said the technology is now on offer to patients across Scotland and provides the “potential for significantly improved long-term outcomes”.
He added: “This new technology is an excellent advancement in treating coronary heart disease.”