Ambulance service trials new device for patients with fast heartbeat

The South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is trialing a new device for patients with an abnormally fast heart rhythm as part of a study involving other NHS trusts, academics and organisations in the south west region.

The Valsalva Assist Device, known as VAD, is being used to help return a patient’s heartbeat back to a normal rate, which could help reduce hospital admissions across the region, if there are no other clinical concerns. VAD has a built-in regulator that controls the pressure when patients blow into it (known as the Valsalva maneuver) and can reset the heart rhythm back to normal. Approximately 125,000 patients are affected by the condition in the UK every year.

SWASFT is the only service in the country to trial this new device for patients who have supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). SVT occurs when there’s a problem with the heart’s electrical system which controls the rhythm. Symptoms include heart palpitations, chest tightness, dizziness, light-headedness, or breathlessness.

The new device used by paramedics’ in treating SVT is being compared to the standard way of treating the condition which previously involved blowing into an empty syringe, which at times could be unreliable. The trial will analyse whether the new method is more effective in returning the patient’s heart rate back to normal and reduces the need for hospital attendance.

Ria Osborne is the Research Manager at SWASFT. She explained, “The device is easy-to-use and can even be left with the patient for them to use if their symptoms return. We are hoping that the study will demonstrate that there is a reduction in patients needing to go to hospital. We’re incredibly grateful to our front-line crews for embracing the use of this new device, in the hope of improving patient outcomes and experiences.”

Photo credit: SWAST.