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Non-physician trained to implant life-saving diagnostic tool

29 May 2019

Kari Pitcher and Dr Andrew MitchellA physiologist at the General Hospital has become the first non-physician in Jersey to be able to implant a cardiac device that helps doctors diagnose hard to detect and life-threatening heart conditions.

Senior clinical physiologist Kari Pitcher, who works within the Hospital’s clinical investigations department, has been trained to implant Medtronic LINQ devices in a move to improve patient care and to allow consultants to concentrate on more complex cases. The monitoring device, which is inserted just underneath the skin close to the heart, uses wireless technology to send information about a patient’s heart directly to the clinical investigations team. That information is used to help doctors diagnose a range of cardiac conditions, including rare and hard to detect illnesses.

Previously, only the team’s heart specialist, Dr Andrew Mitchell, had been able to implant the technology, which is currently being used to help around 100 islanders. He is supported by a team of physiologists who educate patients about the device as well as help monitor the information sent in.

"We are already doing most of the work – the last piece in the jigsaw was doing the implant," Kari, who has been a physiologist for ten years, said. "It makes sense for the physiologist to do that part as well as we build up a relationship with the patient.

"It means that Dr Mitchell’s time is freed up so he can concentrate on more complex cases and there is also a financial benefit as in the longer term we are looking to take the procedure out of the day surgery setting."

The procedure only takes a few minutes and the incision is closed with Steri-Strips. Kari, who has undertaken her first implantation under the supervision of Dr Mitchell, has also helped to design a Jersey-specific single-use operating kit which contains all the equipment needed to carry out the procedure, saving both time and money. It is hoped that within six months she will be able to carry out the implantation independently.

Meanwhile, the Hospital’s cardiac nurse Angela Hall, who last year was crowned UK national Nurse of the Year at the RCNi Nurse Awards, has recently produced national guidelines for the implantation of loop recorders (cardiac monitoring devices) by non-medical staff.

Dr Mitchell said: "It’s great that guidelines produced in Jersey will be used across the UK. Implantable devices are playing a very valuable role in diagnosing and treating conditions including those in people who have suffered unexplained blackouts.

"The number of cardiac patients that we are treating is going up steadily so we need capacity in the future. The fact that Kari will be able to implant the device independently not only improves the patient’s journey but also allows me to focus on more complicated cases."

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