Benefits of minimally invasive technology debated at UK parliamentary meeting

22 July 2008

A cross section of members of parliament, clinicians and patient groups came together in London last week to debate the benefits of minimally invasive technology (MIT) at a parliamentary reception.

Titled Innovative medical devices: the real cost of not treating and hosted by Des Turner MP, the event focused on sudden cardiac death and chronic pain caused by nerve problems (neuropathic) and restricted blood flow (ischaemic). Guest speakers included Laura Nelson, Project and Campaign Manager at Arrhythmia Alliance, Professor Jon Raphael, an elected member to the Council of the British Pain Society, Mark McIntyre, Director of Public Affairs and Health Economics, Boston Scientific UK and Ireland and consultant cardiologist Dr Richard Schilling of St Bartholomew’s Hospital.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to highlight the benefits for patients, the NHS and the economy available from these new devices,” commented Des Turner MP. “Investing in medical technologies not only improves and saves the lives of patients, but the long-term advantages to the economy are very tangible.

“Reducing premature deaths and increasing patients’ quality of life means that they can stay in work and contribute to the UK economy and the tax system.”

Today’s advances in medical technology reduce the trauma of surgery and shock to the body which enables patients to recover more quickly. This has the additional benefits of allowing surgeons to treat more patients; reducing patient waiting times, minimising the risk of hospital acquired infection and making it less likely for patients to be re-admitted to hospital.

Heart failure and chronic neuropathic and ischaemic pain are two examples of conditions that can now be more successfully managed through minimally invasive options rather than traditional surgeries.

Sudden cardiac arrest claims approximately 100,000 lives every year. Furthermore the cost of heart failure to the NHS has been estimated at £700 million a year, with hospital care accounting for 70% of these costs.

"One million people in the UK suffer from an arrhythmia. This condition not only affects a person physically but also impacts their personal outlook on life. Technological advancements which reduce trauma and pain for patient, while saving time and money for health service, have to be regarded as significant contributors to the whole pathway of care," said Laura Nelson, Arrhythmia Alliance.

Chronic pain affects up to half of the adult population at some time in their lives. Selected neuropathic and ischaemic pain conditions account for an important minority of such cases of chronic pain because the degree of pain and disability is high and there is a proven treatment.

“Chronic pain is managed by a multidisciplinary approach. However, often only limited pain relief can be obtained and a patient’s only option is to managed their ability to cope with pain through a variety of therapeutic techniques,” remarked Professor Jon Raphael, British Pain Society.

“For selected painful conditions, effective pain relieving treatments do exist. From a wealth of clinical experience, spinal cord stimulation appears effective in a wide variety of neuropathic pain conditions. All of these conditions have severe pain, disability and substantial economic costs that are significantly reduced by successful treatment with spinal cord stimulation[1].”

Demonstration stands at the event provided guests with the opportunity to interact with MIT in order to fully understand how the technology works.

Examples on show included internal defibrillators. For people at risk of sudden cardiac death these small iPod-size devices are a built-in ‘lifesaver’ that regulates abnormal heart rhythm and manages the pain of patients.

Innovative spinal cord simulators were also available. Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is an evidence-based therapy to treat patients with severe chronic neuropathic and ischaemic pain. The rechargeable devices reduce costs through avoiding hospital visits for patients.

“SCS and internal defibrillators are a cost-effective option for patients. The demand for these and similar devices will continue to grow as they improve patient care and increase health service productivity,” said Mark McIntyre, Director of Public Affairs and Health Economics, Boston Scientific UK and Ireland.

The importance of a joined-up approach which addresses both health and employment was highlighted in Dame Carol Black’s Fit for Work Review. The report also highlights the role of early intervention and MIT technologies to enable patients to recover and return to work quickly.

For more information on the review see:

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