Cambridge Consultant gives Perse students an insight into ground-breaking heart surgery
8 Mar 2019
Leading heart specialist Dr Andrew Grace gave a fascinating 42 Lecture to Perse students on the latest advances in cardiology.
Dr Grace is Consultant Cardiologist at Royal Papworth Hospital and has worked at the world-renowned Cambridgeshire heart and lung hospital since 1985, having taken on his current position in 1996.
He began by explaining how the nature of heart problems had changed over time from being focused on dealing with coronary heart disease – clogged arteries as a result of factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol – to arrhythmia, a group of conditions where there is an irregular heartbeat.
Dr Grace, who is also Research Group Head at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Biochemistry, outlined that being overweight increases the likelihood of atrial fibrillation (AF) – the most common form of arrhythmia – where the heart beats irregularly and faster than normal. He said the rapid rise in overweight and obese children in the UK meant it could become a major issue in the future, adding that AF sufferers are five times more likely to have a stroke than someone with a normal heartbeat.
Specialising in cardio electrophysiology, Dr Grace has been at the forefront of developments in helping people with arrhythmia.
He told students how he had been the first doctor to carry out an operation to fit a subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator (S-ICD) in 2002 at Papworth. Rather than the traditional pacemaker, which has wires leading into the heart, the electrodes of the S-ICD are implanted just under the skin. Since doing the initial operation, Dr Grace said 58,000 people worldwide had been fitted with S-ICDs and had made a huge difference to their lives.
Dr Grace explained how he is now involved in a pioneering new project – the AcQMap tool, a 2.5cm device which is inserted into the heart with a catheter. The device uses ultrasound to create an image of the heart, allowing surgery to be targeted to particular areas of the chamber responsible for causing AF.
Following the lecture, Dr Grace said it was great to see so many Perse students take an interest in medicine. He added: “Medicine is a good starting point for many careers in the 21st Century because of the broader skills that medics will have an insight into. Many people go into other fields such as engineering or economics but come from a medical background.”