A TEAM of doctors at the Royal Blackburn Hospital have become the first in the UK to perform a ‘keyhole’ procedure using an advanced German-made stent.

Dr Peter Woodhead, Dr Duncan Gavan and Mr Simon Hardy spent a nerve-wracking three hours feeding the device into a patient’s main artery, the aorta, where a dangerous swelling had developed.

Although the trio have performed hundreds of similar procedures, using stents to realign the artery, this was the first time they had used stentgraft sections to realign the iliac branch, which is a small section of the aorta in the pelvis They used X-ray technology to feed the spring-loaded stents through the artery using probes, with one component travelling down from an incision in the arm and the other coming up from the groin.

Although the technique has been used before by a handful of major hospitals, this was the first branched iliac graft in the country to use a stent designed by the German firm Jotec.

Dr Gavan, an interventional radiologist, said: “We chose this device because it was a good fit for the patient, but the company were also very keen and willing to take on the case and help us with the measurements, and sent two of their staff over to help with the procedure.

“It was incredibly complex and we were all nervous beforehand. We checked things much more than we normally would and went through it several times with the company.”

Dr Woodhead, also an interventional radiologist, said the devices cost thousands of pounds, but produced a much better outcome for the patient He would normally have undergone full surgery, involving a much longer stay in hospital, or had the branch of the artery blocked off, which can cause further problems.

He added: “The costs are actually very similar to open surgery, as that would involve intensive care and the costs of a bed while the patient recovered.”

The Royal Blackburn was recently designated as a specialist centre for vascular surgery and interventions.