London medics' successful ops

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 February, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 February, 1998, 12:00am

With reference to your interesting and well-presented article in The Review headlined, 'The ice man cometh' (South China Morning Post, January 31), dealing with patients about to have 'open heart' surgical operations in Siberia, Russia, prepared by profound cooling with ice packs, your readers might like to have some additional information.

The method (or a very similar one) described by the author was also used in England in the late 1950s and early 1960s, particularly in the Westminster Hospital (University of London).

The procedure 'the Drew Method' was named after the consultant cardio-thoracic surgeon Dr Drew who had introduced it and it was further fine tuned by his anaesthesia colleagues Sir Geoffrey Ongani, Dr Cyril Scurr, Dr Roger Manley (who became also well known for his 'Manley Ventilator') and Dr Stanley Feldman.

In addition to cooling the patients down to the required temperature levels, they also kept the patients' lungs distended with a high concentration of oxygen. I attended a number of operations performed as described (largely on young patients) and I was impressed by the very good operating conditions and the enviable results obtained in the Westminster Hospital.

Although a number of other centres tried the 'Drew Method' of profound hypothermia, the good results obtained by this method in London could not, universally, be duplicated elsewhere.

Consequently, with the introduction of new equipment and bypass procedures, the 'Drew Method' of deep hypothermia for cardiac operation (as perfected and introduced by Dr Drew) was gradually but steadily replaced, although some milder forms of cooling patients continue to be employed to this day.

We, in Hong Kong, before the advent of present-day facilities for up-to-date cardiac surgery, were also able to employ various ways of cooling patients in the 1970s in a few hospitals, for cardiac surgery as then performed by pioneer surgeons in Hong Kong.

Z. LETT Formerly Consultant Anaesthetist Government Medical Services (retired)