HEART patients are facing a computer lottery to win life-saving surgery being pioneered on Merseyside.
Patients have to sign up for medical trials to get the treatment and then face a random draw to see if they will get the keyhole surgery.
If they are out of luck, they either face a much riskier major operation or no treatment at all for the condition, which could kill them at any time.
The NHS is refusing to fund the new keyhole treatment for the repair of a bulge in the aorta known as an aortic aneurysm. If the bulge bursts, 90pc of patients die.
Surgeons from the Royal Liverpool Hospital are leading the way in developing the procedure, but many patients cannot get access to it.
The hospital's regional vascular team are to demonstrate their skills via video link to a conference of 8,000 specialists in Paris this week.
The keyhole repair is far less invasive than conventional surgery but is very expensive. The tube-like device used costs £6,000 and can only be used once.
Consultant vascular surgeon Geoff Gilling-Smith said: "Endovascular therapy offers patients the chance to undergo treatment for a life-threatening condition, without very major stressful surgery."
Lawrence Fitzgerald, 77, from Huyton, underwent the treatment privately two weeks ago, after his family raised £12,000 for him to have the operation at Bupa's Murrayfield Hospital in Thingwall, Wirral.
He told the Daily Post "I feel it should be available to all".