Saturday, April 1, 2023

Better care for heart patients

Heart patients from across Essex are using a unique piece of exercise equipment to test the function of heart muscle and the valves, thanks to a kind donation from south Essex charities.

The Hearts and Minds and Take Heart, charity groups from Basildon and Southend respectively, jointly raised £9,000 to purchase a special exercise bike for the Echo Unit at The Essex Cardiothoracic Centre (CTC), Basildon University Hospital. The bike allows cardiac physiologists to scan the patient’s heart during exercise, to make sure it is working properly when under stress.

There are only a handful of units across the country that have such a bike, which it tilts the patient so the physiologist can get a better view of the heart and this is the only one of its kind in Essex.

Sarah Fergey, Lead Cardiac Physiologist, said: “We have wanted this bike for since last year and we were over the moon when the charities offered to raise the funds for it. We can’t thank them enough. We’ve carried out about 15 echos on the bike so far and it really does make such a difference to the care we can give to our patients from Essex and surrounding counties.”



Dr Azhar Khokhar, Consultant Cardiologist, established the new service. He said: “The bike allows the patient to sit comfortably with their arm raised, and it tilts the patient to the left side, so that we get a better view of the heart. We can scan the patient at rest, during and after exercise to compare heart and valve functions. A normal echo scan provides information about the dynamics of the heart at rest only, while most of the patients develop symptoms during and after exercise.

“Until now we have had to ask patients to run on a treadmill, then stop and lay back down for the scan during which time the heart rate may become normal. This unique set up enables us to assess the dynamics of the heart in real time during exercise, providing diagnoses that may not be apparent on a resting scan.”

The team carries out an average of 800 echoes a month; it is a quick, non-invasive examination that can often eliminate any potentially serious heart problems. The bike is specifically used for patients who have problems with their heart valves or chest pains.

Paul Halley, Chairman of the Take Heart group in Southend, said: “When Dr Khokhar told us about the e-bike, we decided to join with Hearts and Minds and work together to raise the money needed. It’s nice to have a fundraising target to aim for each year and we get a real kick out of our members telling us they have used a piece of machinery that we have helped get in place.”

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