Doctors at a specialist heart centre have used a rapid cooling technique – “much like a baked Alaska” – to treat a heart attack patient.
Steve Jaggers, 50, was taken to Basildon Hospital in Essex last month.
A “therapeutic hypothermia” was used to reduce his body temperature from the inside and minimise swelling to his heart muscles during the heart attack.
The Essex Cardiothoracic Centre is the only site in the UK to be involved in trying out the technology.
A catheter with a balloon is inserted into the main vein which runs through the body before a cool liquid runs into the balloon and brings the body’s temperature down.
“It’s essential to do this quickly – we cool them from the inside but keep their outside warm, much like a baked Alaska,” said Dr Thomas Keeble, a consultant cardiologist.
“When an artery is blocked the surrounding heart muscle dies.
“When we open up the artery, the muscle that has died is further damaged by the rapid reflow of blood – about half the injury to the heart following a heart attack is caused by this.
“By cooling the patient before we open the artery, we can protect the heart and significantly reduce the amount of heart damage.”
Mr Jaggers, a maintenance worker at a care home, was fully conscious during the procedure and said it was a “strange sensation”.
Doctors used blankets to stop him from shivering – which can be a problematic side effect of cooling – and inserted a stent into his heart.
Afterwards, his body was warmed up slowly in recovery: “It felt like being abroad in the sun, where you get hotter and hotter,” Mr Jagger said.
“Now I feel completely fine. It’s like nothing has happened to me.