World champion thanks 'lifesaving' heart study

Wednesday 16 May 2018

Alan Luker with medal

A world champion powerlifter has credited a pioneering research study with saving his life.

Alan Luker, 68 from Snodland in Kent, joined the clinical trial at St Thomas’ Hospital after having an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) fitted in December 2013.

The REVascularisation for Ischaemic VEntricular Dysfunction (REVIVED) study is assessing whether or not patients with coronary artery disease benefit from having a stent (a small tube) inserted into their blocked artery.

The multi-centre study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), recently reached a milestone, recruiting more than 400 patients out of a 700 target. This makes it the largest ever study of its kind which means that it will hopefully inform health professionals if it is best to use stents on patients with the condition.

An estimated 300,000 people in the UK have heart failure caused by coronary artery disease. This is when the arteries which supply the heart with blood become narrowed due to a gradual build-up of fatty material.

Alan, a powerlifter who has won eight world championships, three European championships and 16 British championships and has broken 23 world records, had a heart attack in 2001.  Over the years he started to develop symptoms including breathlessness and high blood pressure. The coronary arteries in his heart had narrowed due to the build-up of fatty deposits, affecting his heart muscle function and causing abnormal heart rhythms.

In 2013 he developed tachycardia while he was shopping in a supermarket, with his heart rate reaching 216 beats per minute, compared with a normal resting heart rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute.

Alan, a father of two, said: “An ambulance came and I thought it was my time, so I relaxed and waited to die. I think relaxing helped because my heart rate slowed. I was taken to St Thomas’ and was advised to have a defibrillator fitted.”

An ICD is a small implanted device which sends electrical pulses to regulate abnormal heart rhythms.

While Alan was at St Thomas’ he was told that he would be a good candidate for the REVIVED study to find out if a stent could improve his heart function. He was randomly selected to have a stent inserted as well as his defibrillator and medication.

He said: “Four years later I feel stronger, fitter and healthier. I’m still able to train a couple of times a week in the gym. Last year I even took part in a European championship where I broke three world records and was named as the best overall master powerlifter in Europe.

“Without the study I believe I would be dead by now. I’m convinced that the combination of the stent and defibrillator has given me a quality of life I couldn’t have dreamed of. Words can’t describe how much I owe the team at St Thomas’ behind the study. They have given me life and time with my wife Julie, family and friends.”

Dr Divaka Perera, consultant interventional cardiologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and professor of cardiology at King’s College London, is the lead investigator of the study. He said: “We can’t be sure that stents necessarily help patients with heart failure caused by coronary artery disease, even though a lot of patients and doctors feel it must help. Stenting for patients where the heart muscle is poor does carry some complications. Until we know whether those risks outweigh the potential benefits in these patients stenting needs to be carried out only under the carefully monitored conditions of the trial.

“This innovative study aims to find out if length of life and symptoms are improved with use of stents, which has been an unanswered question for so long. Previous attempts to do this research have failed because it is difficult to recruit enough patients, so we’re very hopeful that the REVIVED study will finally be able to answer the question about the benefits of stents and in turn help doctors to decide what the best treatment is for their patients.”

Around 30 centres across the UK are involved in the study, with the majority of patients to date having been enrolled at St Thomas’ Hospital, Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Glasgow, Royal Bournemouth Hospital, Leeds General Infirmary and Barts Heart Centre. The trial is funded by a grant from the NIHR, awarded to King’s College London.

Last updated: March 2022

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