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Silent heart condition could kill thousands of people in next 3 years

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By Tom Campbell via SWNS

A silent heart condition could kill thousands of people over the next three years and overwhelm the health services, scientists warned.

The disease, dubbed aortic valve stenosis, already affects around 1.5 million people in the US.

Aortic valve stenosis occurs when one of the heart's main valves stiffens and narrows, blocking blood flow into the main artery - the aorta, and to the rest of the body.

The progressive and potentially fatal condition remains silent for many elderly people, who only develop symptoms once the disease is already advanced and it's often too late.

Experts fear there could be a large pool of undiagnosed people who could benefit from life-saving treatment, such as aortic valve replacement (SAVR) or transcatheter aortic valve implant (TAVI) surgery.

Now, scientists have crunched the numbers and confirmed their fears, that thousands of people are likely living with the condition, but are unlikely to receive treatment as they do not show any symptoms. Their findings were published in the BMJ.


Professor Huon Gray, an author of the study at NHS England, said: "The UK health service will struggle to cope with the sheer number of people needing treatment for this over the next few years, with the number set to rise further as the population ages."

One of the largest studies on the condition to date - NEDA, found the condition severely affected 3.5 percent of people over 75.

The researchers took this as a referent point and combined it with national population data for 2019 in order to estimate its prevalence among other age groups.

They then considered how many people would have symptoms and whether they could be treated with drugs or surgery.

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It is predicted that cases could overwhelm the healthcare system (ESB Professional/Shutterstock)

Based on their calculations, 1.5 percent or around 300,000 people over 55 in the UK are living with the potentially deadly condition.

Of these, just under 200,000 (68%) would have symptoms, requiring an estimated 116,000 SAVR and 51,000 TAVI surgeries.

But a third of all cases will remain undiagnosed unless they are proactively screened or undergo tests for another heart problem, the researchers found.

Without timely treatment, up to 59 percent of the people with severe aortic stenosis in 2019 will pass away over the five years to 2024.

Around 10,000 of these deaths will be among 55 to 64-year-olds, with an additional 29,548 among 65 to 74-year-olds.

Whether the UK health service can cope with these figures remains to be seen, the researchers say.

A study co-author, Dr. Geoffrey Strange at the University of Notre Dame in Western Australia, said: "Critically, such an indicative burden is far greater than the current capacity within the NHS to screen, detect, triage and treat such cases.

"There seems little doubt, therefore, that there is a significant shortfall between interventions undertaken for severe aortic stenosis and our estimates of potential demand.”

There is currently no way of checking whether the researchers' estimates are accurate as data on the incidence and prevalence of aortic stenosis in the UK remains inadequate.

Nevertheless, the findings, published in the open-access journal Open Heart, match warnings from previous studies.

Dr. Strange said: “In conclusion, this study suggests that severe aortic stenosis is a common condition affecting many individuals within the UK population aged 55 and older.

"Without appropriate detection and intervention, their survival prospects are likely to be poor.”

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