Solving Alex’s undiagnosed heart condition

At the age of 12, dancer Alex Brookes began experiencing irregular heart palpations. After initially being told it was nothing to worry about, her symptoms persisted and her mum decided it was best to seek medical advice and chose The Portland Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK.

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When Alex, a healthy child who danced six days a week, began experiencing irregular heart palpations, both Alex and her family became concerned about what the cause of the palpations could be.

Alex said: “

At first, the heart palpations were only two minutes long and happened only once a month but then they became more regular as time went on. The symptoms worsened and I began to experience palpations once or twice within a month.

Alex’s mum, Vicki, was worried and so she frequently took Alex to visit her local GP to check in on what the cause of these palpations could be. Alex’s GP assured her that as the heart palpations were irregular, it was nothing to be concerned about and so Alex continued to ignore her symptoms and carry on with her life.

However, fast forward a few months and Alex became ill with various different chest infections. Each infection resulted in Alex having difficulty breathing, making her heart palpations even worse – at its highest her heart was beating at 200bpm.

Receiving a diagnosis at last

Becoming increasingly concerned, Vicki decided to seek private medical advice from The Portland Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK.

Alex was able to be seen straight away by Consultant Paediatric Cardiologist Dr Alessandro Giardini. On this initial consultation, Vicki commented:

Within the first 30 minutes of Alex’s appointment with Dr Giardini, we learnt more about her condition than we had in years. He told us that Alex had Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a condition that causes the heart to beat abnormally fast for periods of time, but that it was treatable.” Dr Giardini then referred Alex to Dr Martin Lowe, Consultant Cardiologist at The Harley Street Clinic, also part of HCA Healthcare UK.

Dr Martin Lowe said: “Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome is a relatively common heart condition that causes the heart to beat abnormally fast for periods of time. It occurs when there is an extra electrical connection in the heart. Typically, the problem with the heart is present at birth, although the symptoms do not always develop until later in life. I’ve seen many cases of the syndrome diagnosed in otherwise healthy young adults”.

Understanding her treatment options

Treating this condition would be an accessory pathway ablation. An accessory pathway is an additional electrical connection between two parts of the heart. The electrical conduction through an accessory pathway can be removed using catheter ablation, which is where small burns or freezers are used to help break up the electrical signals.

After the successful ablation of Alex’s accessory pathway, Alex immediately began to feel better. On the success of the procedure and the care that she received, Alex added: “Me and my mum were overwhelmed with the level of care I received at The Portland Hospital and The Harley Street Clinic. The surgeon came and spoke to me before and after the surgery to check in on me and that I was OK with everything that was happening. We felt so safe and cared for which made me and my mum so much more relaxed as we were finally given an explanation as to why I was feeling so unwell after all these years”. 

On Alex’s ongoing care, she continues to have three-monthly ECG check-ups on her heart as in some cases, the electrical pathway can regenerate itself and return so it’s important that Alex’s doctors frequently monitor this for her.

Excited about her future once more

Thanks to Dr Martin Lowe and HCA Healthcare UK, Alex now continues to live her life to the full, working towards her lifetime goal of becoming a dancer in Cirque Du Soleil.

On what life holds for her now, Alex added: “I couldn’t be happier with how my surgery went. I now understand my condition and what this means for my body so now I don’t have to worry so much. I can continue to live my life as normal, go back to my job as a barmaid and focus on my future of becoming a dancer in Cirque Du Soleil. I’m looking forward to seeing where the future takes me and going back to doing everything I’ve missed over these past couple of years”.

Learn more about the cardiac care we offer at HCA Healthcare UK here

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