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Worn out heart valves warning

14th December 2010

Experts have warned that the UK should make preparations for a huge increase in the number of people with valvular heart disease.

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The number of people in the UK between the ages of 75 to 84 will reach four million in a few years and surgeons have seen an increase in the number of operations required to replace old valves.

The most recent figures have shown a significant rise in valve operations in the UK, with some surgeons reporting that the procedures take up 40% of their time.

As people become older, the valves in the heart can be torn or stretched, or become more rigid. Studies from America and Europe have revealed that 13% of people over the age of 75 have valvular heart disease.

According to information from the most recent National Adult Cardiac Surgery Database for Great Britain and Northern Ireland, there are considerable variations in treatment availability.

The researchers told Heart journal that over one third of patients who went for the surgery had "advanced" forms of the disease, and were therefore at more risk of death and complications.

"These observations suggest that both initial diagnoses and subsequent follow up are currently inadequate and that patients are routinely referred late in the natural history of the condition, beyond the window where surgery is of maximum benefit," they said.

The surgeons were from Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital, London's St Thomas' Hospital and the University Hospital of South Manchester.

"Advancing age is often used to justify the decision to withhold surgery, but suitably selected patients may derive considerable improvement in symptomatic burden and overall quality of life, following successful intervention," they added.

 

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