Sir Patrick Stewart’s ‘wake-up call’ when he went in for surgery

Sir Patrick Stewart sings while he rides a horse

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Most recognised for his portrayal of Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek, he was brought back down to Earth when he was unexpectedly diagnosed with heart disease. “It was a wake-up call,” he said on ITV’s This Morning. “I was diagnosed very unexpectedly during my annual physical by my cardiologist.” In 2006, tests revealed he had an 85 percent blockage in his heart which required a stent insertion.

Sir Patrick explained: “In five minutes I was on a gurney [a wheeled stretcher used for transporting hospital patients] giving details of my next of kin.”

Describing the ordeal as “rather dramatic”, Sir Patrick said he “didn’t have time to brood on it”.

He added, in the 2019 TV segment: “What I did know was that I was in the best possible hands I could’ve been in and I was going to be taken care of whatever the outcome.”

Heart stent insertion

Professor Simon Redwood, speaking on behalf of the British Heart Foundation (BHF), says a stent is “permanent” solution to open up narrowed arteries.


Professor Redwood adds that stents are “around 15–20mm in length” and are up to 5mm in diameter.

“A long hollow tube (catheter) is inserted from the wrist or the groin and guided (using X-rays) all the way to the narrowed artery,” Professor Redwood explains.

“A very fine wire is fed through the catheter and into the narrowing. Over that wire, a balloon is inserted with a ‘squashed-down’ stent on it.”

Once in the best position, the balloon is inflated, which widens the narrowed artery, and the expanding stent fits the artery wall.

“Then the catheter, balloon and wire are removed, leaving the stent in place,” Professor Redwood says.

Generally a “painless” procedure, the operation can take up to an hour to complete.

“You’ll have local anaesthetic injected before the catheter is put in,” explains Professor Redwood.

“The inside of the artery doesn’t have nerve endings, so you shouldn’t feel anything there.”

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A post shared by Patrick Stewart (@sirpatstew)

The surgery, known as an angioplasty, has an extremely high success rate, but other arteries could narrow.

To minimise the requirement of further stents, people are encouraged to take their prescribed medication and to make healthier lifestyle choices.

Healthy lifestyle modifications may include not smoking, treating diabetes or high blood pressure, and lowering cholesterol levels.

Heart disease

Heart disease “is when your coronary arteries become narrowed by a build-up of fatty material within their walls”, the BHF clarifies.

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A post shared by Patrick Stewart (@sirpatstew)

The condition “develops slowly over time”, but symptoms could include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain travelling through the body
  • Feeling faint
  • Nausea.

Risk factors for developing heart disease includes obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and a family history of the condition.

Sir Patrick Stewart starred in A Christmas Carol, which is showcasing on Saturday, December 10 on Channel 5 at 7.24pm.

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