Doctors at Bradford Royal Infirmary are pioneering a new ulcer treatment which could help patients avoid open surgery and long hospital stays.

Bradford Teaching Hospitals is the first site in the UK to trial the Hemospray, a powder which controls bleeding in stomach and small intestine ulcers.

The surgical device is easier to use than traditional techniques and medics hope it could avoid the need for major surgery.

Dr Sulleman Moreea, who is the UK’s chief investigator for the HALT trial, said: “Gastrointestinal bleeding remains one of the most important emergencies in gastroenterology.

“Traditionally, the way doctors treat bleeding ulcers in the stomach and duodenum is to use an endoscope [an instrument used to examine the interior of a hollow organ] to inject adrenaline and to cauterise or stem the blood-flow through the use of medical clips.

“This technique can be technically demanding and difficult. If the bleeding can’t be controlled, the patient will have to be transferred to the operating theatre for major surgery which is usually always followed by a long stay in hospital to recuperate.

“Hemospray is a new powder that appears to act quickly when sprayed on to the ulcer to control the bleeding and can be easily inserted via endoscope.

"Although there is a learning curve for the use of the Hemospray, ultimately this is an easier technique compared to the current methods which we use.”

The HALT study is a multi-national, commercial study funded by US-based pharmaceutical company, Cook Medical, involving centres in Hong Kong, Canada, Holland and the United States.

It aims to recruit 80 patients worldwide, of which 40 have been recruited so far.

The Bradford team, which includes specialist research nurse Karl Ward, has screened eight people and recruited three patients since the study started in February. BRI hopes to recruit ten patients in total over the next five months.

Initial reports of Hemospray’s usefulness in stemming bleeding peptic ulcers in the US were promising, but were limited by the small number of patients, so larger studies such as HALT will confirm its true value.

Dr Moreea added. “If the Hemospray proves effective in this current study then further research will be carried out to directly compare the powder against the current techniques of adrenaline, cauterization and clips.

“If the Hemospray proves less successful than we think it will be, doctors will use the current endoscopic and surgical techniques to stem the bleeding.”

Currently, the Foundation Trust sees between two to three patients every month with peptic ulcers, while around three to four patients a year will end up in surgery if endoscopic options fail to stop their bleeding.

Mr Ward said: “Bradford patients will benefit from this new treatment if it proves effective as their bleeding will be easier to control and hopefully fewer patients will need to go to surgery for peptic ulcers.”

Nottingham University Hospitals will be the only other UK site to take part in the trial.