Doctor to receive specialist training on the latest heart disease procedures

The Heart Foundation has awarded its John Ormiston Fellowship to Dr Bernard Wong, who will spend a year at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Hong Kong. There he will undertake research and clinical practice and learn up-to-the-minute intervention procedures, some of which are not yet available in New Zealand.

Dr Bernard Wong sitting at his desk wearing hospital scrubs

Dr Bernard Wong has been awarded the Heart Foundation John Ormiston Fellowship to undertake research and training in Hong Kong, where he will learn new techniques for treating heart disease.

“The Prince of Wales is a large University Hospital, and because of the size of the population, you get large numbers of procedures. They do a lot of complex stenting procedures using different devices, some of which are available in New Zealand and some of which aren’t,” says Bernard.

“I will get hands-on experience with all the devices and aim to bring that knowledge back to New Zealand.”

While in Hong Kong, he also hopes to complete research into the effectiveness of a recently developed treatment that uses supersonic soundwaves to help place stents in more complicated cases. Stents are tubes that open up blocked arteries.

The project, which he started at Waitematā District Health Board last year, is investigating the effectiveness of Shockwave Intravascular Lithotripsy, a tool that uses soundwaves to break up calcium (hardening) in arteries – and comparing that with more traditional techniques that use a balloon.

The principle is similar to that used to treat kidney stones, where soundwaves are applied to break up the stones.

“Sometimes when the artery is very calcified, the standard balloon doesn’t blow up as well as we’d like,” explains Bernard. “In these cases, it can be difficult to then place a stent. As an alternative we could consider using lithotripsy to crack the calcium and make placing the stent easier.”

Research to be presented internationally

Bernard’s research is part of a Doctor of Medicine (MD) which he is currently doing with the University of Auckland. He hopes to present the findings of this study at an international cardiology conference on completion.

“My research aims to provide good evidence for use of the device. The existing evidence doesn’t compare shockwave to anything else. So, although this device has shown a lot of promise, we still need good quality research to prove it works better than existing options. Although this is a small-scale study, it could be the launching pad for larger trials.

“I couldn’t do this work without the Heart Foundation support and I’ll hopefully continue to develop my own research even after the conclusion of the fellowship,” Bernard says. “Plus, I’ll be learning a wide range of skills and techniques which I can then bring back to New Zealand.

“I’d also like to thank my colleagues in New Zealand for their mentorship and ongoing support for this research,” he adds.

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