24 December 2012
Alcohol saves heart patient’s life
A team of cardiologists at the Bristol Heart Institute have
saved the life a 77 year old man by using neat alcohol to induce a
Dr Edward Duncan, Dr Glyn Thomas and Dr Tom Johnson were the
first doctors in the South West of England to perform the procedure
called ethanol ablation to treat a life threatening heart rhythm
called Ventricular Tachycardia (VT).
The procedure involves passing a catheter to the heart from the
groin. The catheter identifies which part of the heart the
dangerous rhythms are coming from. A tiny balloon is then blown up
in the heart artery supplying that area and a small amount of
absolute alcohol is injected into the artery to produce a small
controlled heart attack. This kills the area of the heart muscle
causing the problem allowing the heart's rhythm to return to
Mr Aldom, 77 from Portishead near Bristol, says: "I was
admitted to the Bristol Heart Institute after what doctors
described as a thunderstorm of shocks from my ICD. I had an
ICD fitted about ten years ago after I had a double by-pass
operation at the hospital. The device gives my heart a shock when
the rhythm becomes abnormal; however, I had about 30 shocks and
knew there was something wrong."
Dr Glyn Thomas, consultant cardiologist at the Bristol Heart
"Initially, along with Dr Edward Duncan and Dr Tom Johnson we
undertook a procedure called VT ablation to restore the normal
rhythm of Mr Aldom's heart. This specialist technique involves
trying to disrupt the electrical circuit in the heart by burning
part of the muscle from inside using a catheter passed from the
"Unfortunately, in Mr Aldom's case we needed to try something
else because we found that he had a large blood clot in the area we
were trying to burn. We were concerned that we might release the
clot causing a stroke.
Dr Duncan says: "We then decided to try a different specialist
procedure called epicardial ablation, where you go in under the
ribcage with a catheter (rather than through a catheter in the leg)
aiming to burn cells on the outside of the heart muscle.
Unfortunately we couldn't reach the target cells this way.
"So, a multi-disciplinary team of cardiologists, surgeons and
anaesthetists at the BHI met to discuss the options left for Mr
Aldom. The only other alternative was a procedure called ethanol
Dr Johnson has performed this procedure for treatment of
patients with bulky hearts but he explains: 'this is the first time
an ethanol ablation procedure has been performed because a blood
clot has prevented more conventional treatments.'
Mr Aldom continues: "After the procedure I was out of hospital
within about three days. I think it's wonderful that the doctors
tried everything to help me. If they hadn't have done this I
wouldn't be here now."
BACK TO NEWS