Brothers have pioneering ops in first for UK

Kyle and Ethan Roper
Kyle and Ethan Roper
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This pair of Yorkshire youngsters have become medical pioneers as they are the first in the country to benefit from groundbreaking new technology.

Ethan and Kyle Roper had miniscule heart monitors inserted under their skin in a procedure at Leeds General Infirmary.

The new heart monitor

The new heart monitor

The hi-tech device, which is the size of two matchsticks, will tell doctors if a serious hereditary heart condition is causing them to faint.

On several occasions the pair, aged eight and seven, have collapsed.

Thanks to the tiny device, information about their heart rhythm will be wirelessly transmitted to the hospital and give doctors crucial data.

Their mum Zoe McConville, from Dunscroft, Doncaster, said their consultant had asked them to wait two weeks to have the procedure so the boys could have the new monitors.

“I am pleased. It’s very reassuring as well,” she said.

Ms McConville, 34, and her son Ethan were both last year diagnosed with Long QT syndrome, a rare and potentially fatal inherited condition.

The syndrome causes the heart to beat an in abnormally fast, uncontrollable way, so it cannot pump blood properly and the brain is temporarily starved of oxygen, so the patient can pass out.

Heart rhythm usually returns to normal quickly and the patient comes round, but if it persists, it can cause cardiac arrest and death.

For Ms McConville, the condition has been successfully controlled with medication.

However her sons have both collapsed suddenly over the last few months.

Last November, Kyle was walking down the stairs when he suddenly passed out and landed at the bottom.

He was seen at accident and emergency but an ECG test of his heart was normal.

Then two weeks ago, Ethan also collapsed and ended up spending two nights at Leeds General Infirmary, where the regional children’s heart surgery experts are based.

Consultant cardiologist Dr Mike Blackburn decided the boys should have a monitor inserted under the skin in their chest so that medics can see what was causing the collapses.

“If anything does happen, we can be alerted straight away,” Ms McConville said.

“It has been worrying because we don’t know if it is their hearts or not.”

Dr Blackburn said the new Medtronic Reveal LINQ Insertable Cardiac Monitor was the smallest implantable device of its kind available and had so far had only been used on a handful of adult patients.

He carried out the short procedures on the youngsters yesterday – Valentine’s Day – and said he hoped it would mean a quick diagnosis for them.

“Heart monitors which help diagnose irregularities with a patient’s heartbeat have been used for many years in both adults and children, but the breakthrough with this device is how small and versatile it is, and that is a particular advantage for young patients,” he said.

“It will automatically transmit any unusual heart activity wirelessly to a secure system that can be accessed instantly by the heart team.

“This means we can continuously monitor the patient’s heart before during and after fainting to identify whether the problem is heart-related.

“As well as being around 20 per cent of the size of conventional monitors, the device has the advantage that it can be placed just beneath the skin, meaning it is as quick and painless as possible to fit and also is not noticeable once in place.”

Previously used heart monitors were around the size of a USB stick, but the new version is almost 90 per cent smaller. It can be left in place for up to three years.

Ben Everson, senior territory manager for manufacturers Medtronic, said its tiny size meant only a small incision in the skin needed to be made when it was inserted and the new version included more advanced technology. “It’s a wireless device so the hospital can follow-up on the patients remotely as that works on a 3G network,” he said.

“It’s a lot smaller and it’s more cosmetically pleasing.”

The Leeds children’s heart surgery unit has been under threat due to a national shake-up. Last year a decision to close it was overturned and a new nationwide review of paediatric cardiac surgery is currently under way.

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