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Smiling Duke waves to supporters as he leaves hospital

27 DECEMBER 2011

He usually leads the way as his family walk to church on Christmas morning, but the Duke of Edinburgh was missing from the royal gathering this year.

After suffering a heart scare just before Christmas, Prince Philip was forced to rest and recover from minor surgery.

But after four nights in hospital, doctors gave him the all clear to return to Sandringham, where the royals are spending the festive season.

 

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Smiling and waving as he left Papworth Hospital, the Queen's 90-year-old husband thanked staff for the excellent care he received during his stay.

"He is very much looking forward to rejoining his family," said a statement from Buckingham Palace.

The Prince was at Sandringham preparing for Christmas with his family when he suffered "serious chest pains" and was rushed to hospital by RAF helicopter on Friday evening around 7.00pm.

 

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Later that night a Buckingham Palace statement said: "His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh was taken to Papworth Cardiothoracic Centre in Cambridge this evening from Sandringham House for precautionary tests after experiencing chest pain."

Doctors diagnosed a blocked artery reducing the flow of blood to the heart. The hospital announced later that a "minimally invasive procedure" was successfully performed on the Prince.

This involved pushing a metal stent through the thigh up towards the blocked artery where a small balloon was inflated to keep the artery open.

Dr Simon Davies, a consultant intervention cardiologist at the Royal Brompton Hospital explained how the stent worked: "What they have done is they put a miniature sausage-shaped balloon down the artery, pushed the balloon into the narrowed section and then blown it up.

"That forces the material that is blocking the artery outwards and then gets the blood flowing down the artery again."

 

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The Duke is extremely fit for his age. He is slim, doesn’t smoke, drinks little and has always led an active life.

He was last in hospital with a chest infection when he was 87 and since then has suffered only from a strained back muscle while carriage-driving at Sandringham.

Many patients who have the same treatment are released from hospital within hours but doctors decided not to take any chances with the Queen’s husband.

Sadly, he had to stay in hospital on Christmas Day but he was cheered by a visit from his wife and several family members in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, arrangements for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this year may have to be reviewed following his illness.

Courtiers are considering scaling down his part in the celebrations marking his wife’s 60 years on the throne, though the man known as the Iron Duke is certain to resist this, they say.

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