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What is emergency open-heart surgery?

The Great North Air Ambulance (library photo) Credit: The Great North Air Ambulance

A woman in her 50's has died following a crash involving a car and a coach on the A19 near Seaham in County Durham.

She passed away in hospital despite desperate attempts by Great North Air Ambulance medics, who carried out open-heart surgery at the side of the road, to save her life.

What is the procedure and how rare is it?

  • The medical name for the procedure is an emergency thoracotomy.
  • In the most basic of terms it involves opening the chest to expose the lungs and the heart to prevent the heart from 'bleeding out' in effect.
  • When the heart does this the blood builds up around the organ - pressurising it and stopping it from beating.
  • The procedure is time-critical and performed in a matter of minutes.
  • When a non-emergency thoracotomy is performed - it takes 90 minutes in a sterile operating theatre with at least five medical staff present including a surgeon and scrub nurses.

Who has performed it?

  • This procedure was first pioneered by a London Air Ambulance team who used it in an effort to save the lives of stabbing and shooting victims.
  • Their use of it at a roadside was a world first.
  • The Great North Air Ambulance has only relatively recently been able to perform this procedure in the most severe of cases.
  • It requires consultant level medical expertise and a doctor of a senior level who must be present at the scene.


A19 re-opens after heart-op surgery at crash scene

The A19 has re-opened following a collision between a coach and a car.

The road was closed for several hours, as Great North Air Ambulance trauma medics carried out open-heart surgery on a female casualty by the side of the road.

The A10The A1018 slip road remains closed.

The A1018 slip road will remain closed while the vehicles involved in the crash are recovered and investigations are carried out.

Car and coach in crash on A19 in County Durham

A collision involving a coach and a car happened ay 11am on the A19 near Seaham in County Durham.

Police have confirmed casualties, but the number is not known at this time.

The 19 has been closed after the crash. Credit: ITV News

The A19 has been closed to allow an air ambulance to land on the road.

Other ambulance crews, firefighters and the police are at the scene, near to the A1018 turn-off to Ryhope.


Cyclist fighting for life after fall

A 44-year-old man is fighting for his life at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary after falling from a bicycle in Dalton-le-Dale near Seaham.

Great North Air Ambulance

The Great North Air Ambulance Service was called after a man sustained serious head and back injuries. He was placed into a medically induced coma and arrived at hospital in a critical condition.

County Durham teen among T in the Park deaths

A perimeter fence around the campsite at T in the Park, the annual music festival held at Strathallan Castle, Perthshire. Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Wire/Press Association Images

A teenager from County Durham is one of two people who died in separate incidents at the T in the Park festival in Scotland.

Megan Bell, 17, from Seaham, died at the festival held at Strathallan Castle in Perthshire, along with a 17-year-old boy from west Scotland.

The two deaths are thought to be unrelated and are not being treated as suspicious.

Miss Bell's family have been informed and the teenager is expected to be formally identified on Monday, Police Scotland confirmed.

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