Video tech speeds up children's heart ops


Posted on Thursday 19 December 2013
Dr Simpson looks at an echocardiagram

Telemedicine is being used by heart doctors to ensure that young patients have quicker operations, meaning the children spend less time under anaesthetic.

An echocardiogram (or echo) is a scan that creates images of the heart to help cardiologists (heart doctors) to diagnose problems. This information is used by heart surgeons who carry out operations to fix the problem.

Cardiologists are usually found on the wards or in outpatient clinics. However their expertise is often needed by heart surgeons while they are doing operations. During surgery, a cardiologist will check the echocardiogram to ensure the heart is back in working order before the surgeon finishes the operation.

Dr John Simpson, consultant paediatric cardiologist, says: “Before our telemedicine project, if a cardiologist was needed to review the scan then they had to physically go into the operating theatre. This meant they needed to get to the theatre, scrub up and change into theatre clothes, look at the scan and then de-scrub which takes around 90 minutes. However, only about five to ten minutes was actually spent looking at the scan. This competed with spending time on the wards, in intensive care unit and talking to parents.” 

“Our cardiac surgeons perform almost 500 operations each year,” adds Dr Simpson. “For cardiologists to be physically present for all 500 is very challenging.” 

The cardiologists spoke to the enterprise team at Evelina London about the problem. Together with IT, medical devices, and medical engineering, they created a video system so the cardiology consultants can view the echocardiogram and speak to the surgical team without having to be in the operating theatre. 

The technology ensures patients have quicker operations, are diagnosed by the most senior doctors, and spend less time under anaesthetic – which is known to speed up recovery.

An extra benefit is that it will save around 1,300 hours of consultants’ and surgeons’ time each year, which they can now spend seeing more patients.

Watch the video.

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