David Smith is a TAVI (Transcatheter aortic valve implantation) Clinical Nurse Specialist in Harefield Hospital’s catheter labs. Many of the patients he treats have been sick for a while. They often have heart conditions that have steadily worsened over a long period of time and made their lives increasingly more difficult.

We wanted to better understand the impact that a cath lab treatment can have on a patient so we thought David would be the ideal person to speak to. He is involved in the post-operative care of TAVI patients, which means, which means he sees the effects of cath lab procedures on patients.

“Typically, candidates for TAVI procedures are elderly patients. They're usually in their mid 80s, maybe into their 90s, who because of their age are too high risk for cardiac surgery,” David said. He said although some people with severe aortic stenosis may not have any symptoms, those that do may experience breathlessness on exertion, dizziness, collapses and chest pain. “The disease itself has quite a high symptom burden, and without treatment the average survival is 50% at two years.”

For many of these older patients the benefits of the cath lab procedure is giving them back some independence, which their symptoms before the operation may have limited. He said that many older patients can be “housebound or need assistance with washing or dressing due to their symptoms.”

“It may not be apparent immediately that their symptoms are now better, it may be once they've got home and started getting back to their normal activity.” David added that: “By far the majority will notice an improvement in their quality of life after the operation.”

This impact can be large or small depending on the patient. David said: “It can be the big things like getting back out on the golf course or gardening, or it can be the small things like making yourself a meal, or actually washing and dressing yourself. For some people it's just being able to make it to the toilet.”

Many patients David treats would die without a TAVI procedure. “It does prolong life,” he said. “They've got grandchildren, they've got great grandchildren, they want to see them grow a bit more. People in their mid 90s, they've still got that desire to live and have more time with their families.”

We also spoke to Sumesh Thiruthalil, a cath lab manager at Harefield Hospital. His team treats patients who have had heart attacks or other sudden heart problems. He said that sometimes there is an immediate improvement.

“The patient will be talking to us, we can see the change they’re going through. If they have a lot of chest pain, once you open the artery and put in a stent you can immediately see the changes on their face. If you speak to them and ask ‘how are you feeling?’ they say ‘I feel a lot better now’.”

Sumesh shared with us a story about a patient who had a dramatic recovery: “There was a guy who was playing cricket, he suddenly had a heart attack and he was brought by the ambulance right into the lab.” Sumesh’s team worked quickly to treat the patient. “About 5 minutes later he was talking, he was okay, he was asking ‘can I go back and play now?’”

These procedures save lives. They prolong life. They give better quality of life. Harefield Hospitals’ cath labs see over 5,500 procedures each year. These offer a lifeline to patients for whom major surgery isn’t an option.

Cath Lab 5 at Harefield Hospital is in urgent need of an upgrade. Here at the Charity we are raising funds to equip Cath Lab 5 with new state-of-the-art cardiovascular imaging equipment. This will allow our clinical staff to do more complex procedures and to improve the quality of life for more patients.

Many people have been helped by a cath lab procedure and David has lots of thank you cards from patients he has treated. He showed us a picture of them. Each one tells a story of someone’s life who has been saved or whose quality of life has been improved by a cath lab procedure.

We need your help to equip Cath Lab 5 at Harefield Hospital with the latest imaging equipment to save the lives and improve the quality of life for many Harefield patients in the years to come. Please help the hospital by donating to our Lifeline Lab appeal.