By Rebecca English, Royal Correspondent
The Duke of Edinburgh was last night under surveillance in the world-famous Papworth Hospital after emergency surgery for a blocked coronary artery.
The 90-year-old royal was flown to the specialist cardiothoracic unit, near Cambridge, in a RAF search and rescue helicopter after being taken ill at Sandringham with serious chest pains.
After ‘precautionary’ tests, Philip underwent what was described as a ‘minimally invasive procedure’ known as coronary stenting.
This involves placing a tube in the coronary arteries that supply the heart, to keep them open in the treatment of heart disease. Stents reduce chest pain and have been shown to improve survival rates in the event of an acute heart problem.
Dr Simon Davies, a cardiologist at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, said: ‘It meant that the pain was from the heart. It means that one or more of the coronary arteries was badly narrowed or perhaps blocked.
‘That meant that the blood was not passing through that artery so the muscle was starving of oxygen and in danger of dying, in other words a heart attack, or was on the verge of one.’
In view of his age, the Queen’s husband, who still conducts more than 350 engagements each year, will remain in hospital for a day or so for further monitoring.
Sources said it was unlikely that members of the Royal Family would be visiting him in the coming hours but confirmed that his wife and children were being kept updated on his condition back at the Queen’s private Norfolk estate, where they are gathered for Christmas.
Although it may be viewed by some as uncaring, this is normal procedure within the Royal Family – and the Duke would have it no other way.
When he was in hospital for four days with a chest infection in 2008 he refused to receive any visitors and spent his time catching up on his paperwork.
Prince Philip, with the Queen, was taken tonight to hospital as a precautionary measure, according to Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace said in a statement last night: ‘His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh was taken to Papworth Cardiothoracic Centre this evening from Sandringham House for precautionary tests after experiencing chest pain.
‘Following tests at Papworth the Duke of Edinburgh was found to have a blocked coronary artery which had caused his chest pains. This was treated successfully by the minimally invasive procedure of coronary stenting. Prince Philip will remain in hospital for observation for a short period.’
It is believed the Duke was flown to the hospital, which is around 60 miles away from the Sandringham estate, by a Sea King helicopter from RAF Wattisham, near Stowmarket in Suffolk, where Prince Harry is based.
Prince Philip has been taken to Papworth Hospital rather than a local cottage hospital
The Duke’s illness comes at the start of the royal Christmas gathering at Sandringham in Norfolk.
Every senior member of the Royal Family was at the estate yesterday, including Prince Charles, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the Duke of York, Princess Anne and the Earl and Countess of Wessex.
The Duke’s heart scare will come as a terrible blow to his wife of 64 years, who is due to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee next year with a nationwide tour with her husband by her side.
A source claimed that although the Queen is ostensibly the ‘senior partner’ in their relationship, she relies on her husband ‘utterly’.
‘It may be a cliché but he truly is the power behind the throne,’ said a source. ‘He is her rock.’
Philip is already the longest-serving consort in British history and the oldest serving partner of a reigning monarch.
His duties as consort began on February 6, 1952, when his young wife, then Princess Elizabeth, succeeded her father, George VI.
The Duke plays a major role in the Sandringham Christmas festivities. The Royal Family traditionally exchange gifts on Christmas Eve.
The Queen and Prince Philip's Golden wedding portrait in 1997, left, and the Duke at a review of the Trooping the Colour
The Queen wearing the Imperial State Crown and the Duke of Edinburgh in uniform of Admiral of the Fleet wave from Buckingham Palace after the Coronation in 1953
Later on, the Queen and other women adjourn, leaving Philip to serve port or brandy to the Prince of Wales, Prince William, Prince Harry and the rest of the royal men.
On Christmas morning the family go to church. In recent years Philip has continued to make the mile-long walk from the house, unlike the Queen, who is chauffeur-driven. And Philip always organises the Boxing Day shoot at Sandringham.
Earlier this year the Duke announced plans to scale back on all but his most important duties.
In June, in an interview to mark his 90th birthday with the BBC, the outspoken Duke admitted he was reducing his workload before he reached his ‘sell-by date’.
He said: ‘I reckon I’ve done my bit, I want to enjoy myself for a bit now. With less responsibility, less rushing about, less preparation, less trying to think of something to say.’
Papworth describes itself as the UK's largest specialist cardiothoracic hospital and the country's main heart and lung transplant centre.
The Royals have gathered for their annual Christmas celebration at Sandringham House
It treats more than 22,800 inpatient and day cases and 53,400 outpatients each year.
Its services include cardiology, respiratory medicine, and cardiothoracic surgery and transplantation.
Dickie Arbiter, a former press secretary to the Queen, said: 'The Duke of Edinburgh's health is actually pretty good given that he is 90.'
Mr Arbiter, who is Sky's royal commentator, told the broadcaster: 'He has had these chest pains before and I don't think it's anything untoward, but given his age they are being safe rather than sorry.
'I am sure we are going to see him on Christmas Day and he can look forward to accompanying the Queen in the new year.'
Margaret Holder, a royal commentator, told the BBC: 'It's obviously very worrying for the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family who are gathering at Sandringham for Christmas.
'It might not be as serious as it sounds, it's possible it could be a bit of indigestion and they are just checking it over, let's hope it's something simple like that.
'But he is 90, he has been in remarkable health. For somebody who has just done an 11-day tour of Australia at 90, that's amazing in itself as it is.
'A lot of people that age could not even manage to deal with the long flights there and back.
'I think it might have taken something out of him, I think they are pushing him to the limits doing that.'
In 2008, the Duke was also admitted to hospital for 'assessment and treatment' for a chest infection.
He is one of the most active members of the Royal family and has only recently started showing signs of slowing down.
The Duke of Edinburgh with a young Princess Elizabeth, Prince Charles, aged three and one-year-old Princess Anne at Clarence House in 1951
Next year Prince Philip will accompany the Queen to ten regions of the UK between March and July to mark Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee.
Other senior members of the Royal family, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, will be tasked with travelling abroad, sparking speculation the Queen and Prince Philip are tiring of travelling long distances.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will travel to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Charles will make additional trips to the Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
Prince William and Kate will travel to once of the smallest and most remote nations in the world, Tuvalu, as well as Malaysia, Singapore and the Solomon Islands.
Prince Harry will undertake his first solo tour on behalf of the Queen, taking in Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas probably in early March.
The Queen and Prince Philip with their children, the Princess Royal, Prince Charles, Prince Edward (seated) and Prince Andrew
Prince Andrew will visit India; Princess Anne Mozambique and Zambia; the Duke of Gloucester the British Virgin Islands and Malta; and the Duke of Kent the Falkland Islands and Uganda.
Prince Edward and his wife, the Countess of Wessex, have bagged what is considered to be one of the ‘plum’ trips – touring the Caribbean, including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, with an extra visit to Gibraltar.
The Queen and Prince Philip also chose not to attend Royal Variety Performance amid rumours that the Duke was beginning to tire of the annual extravaganza.
It is believed he was not keen on the tiring trip to Salford, the controversial location of a huge new home for the BBC, and the monarch did not want to attend without him.
At the time Royal commentator Jennie Bond said the decision was 'a very understandable concession to their age'.
STENTS, THE SCAFFOLDING THAT OPENS NARROW BLOOD VESSELS
By John Stevens
Stents are small metal tubes that are put into the arteries to help blood flow.
They are used to treat the type of coronary artery blockage that the Duke of Edinburgh suffered.
Every year, around 85,000 Britons are fitted with the devices, which look like small pieces of scaffolding.
They are inserted into the artery during keyhole surgery and then expanded to widen the artery.
During the procedure a hollow tube containing the stent along with a small inflatable balloon is passed into an artery through the groin or arm.
The operator then uses X-ray screening to direct it into a coronary artery until it reaches the narrow or blocked section. The balloon is then gently inflated expanding the stent so it holds the narrowed blood vessel open.
When it is fully expanded the balloon is let down and removed, leaving the stent in place.
Most people can go home the same day or next day, but if it has been an emergency procedure, stays in hospital are usually longer. Sometimes there is a small amount of bleeding after the procedure.
In the majority of cases, people find that they feel back to normal after just a few days, but if the stent has been put in after a heart attack the recovery takes longer.However, in some cases the rigid metal can cause the walls of the artery to become inflamed or damaged, and scar.
In recent years, drug-eluting stents have been developed. These are coated with a tiny amount of a drug which is delivered to the area around the stent to prevent the scarring process and thus stop the artery from narrowing.
A new type of stent, called bioresorbable vascular scaffold, is currently being developed that is made of corn starch rather than metal. It gradually disappears over two to three years, so once the artery has been able to return to normal, the stent is metabolised by the body.
Stents cost up to £900 each, depending on the type used.
The Duke of Edinburgh talks to Aboriginal performers after watching a culture show in Australia in 2002
Taoiseach Enda Kenny saying goodbye to Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh as they depart from Cork Airport after the four day State Visit to Ireland in May
Saturday, December 24, 2011
By Rebecca English, Royal Correspondent