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Engineer Saves Own Life by Making Surgical Heart-Repair Kit

Engineer Saves Own Life by Making Surgical Heart-Repair Kit

Daily Mail UK

January 05, 2010

A patient who saved his own life with a pioneering home-made heart repair kit has collaborated with surgeons to market the design and benefit 19 other patients.

Engineer Tal Golesworthy, suffered from Marfan syndrome, a genetic, life-threatening heart defect that left his main artery in danger of splitting.

But faced with gruelling surgery and a lifetime on anticoagulant drugs, he designed himself a made-to-measure knitted polyester sleeve to fit around his aorta.

The surgery was a complete success and, inspired by its success, Mr Golesworthy, 54, and a team of surgeons are now making the technology available to other patients.

To date, 19 patients – the youngest being just 16 – have had their own individually designed surgical sleeve fitted, and another three are booked in for surgery this month.

Around 12,000 people in Britain suffer from Marfan syndrome, a genetic defect which can cause abnormal growth of bones and weakness of connective tissue.

This leaves the neck of the aorta – the main artery in the heart for carrying oxygenated blood – stretched dangerously thin.

A normal aorta has a diameter of around one-and-a-half inches, but in Marfan syndrome sufferers this can weaken and stretch to a staggering four inches wide.

If the aorta splits, it triggers a fatal heart attack.

Each sleeve is created using scans of the individual patient’s aorta and computer-assisted drawing to produce a bespoke device.

Mr Golesworthy, of Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, designed the sleeve because he had severe concerns about the old-style surgery that left him on anticoagulant drugs for the rest of his life to prevent blood clots.

He said: ‘I just thought the operation sounded awful. The doctors were being asked to do an engineering job when they weren’t engineers.

‘I decided there had to be a better way.’

Mr Golesworthy, who has marketed the device through his firm Exstent, became the first recipient of his own brainchild called EARS – external aortic root support – on 24 May 2004 at London’s Royal Brompton Hospital.

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