Three-quarters of people with heart failure could be diagnosed earlier through blood test, researchers say
- A study claims 75 per cent of heart failure cases could be diagnosed sooner
- Each year, 200,000 Brits are found to have hearts incapable of pumping blood
- Oxford University researchers says a natriuretic peptide test could result in earlier diagnosis and treatment for thousands of patients
More than 75 per cent of people with heart failure could be diagnosed sooner if GPs gave them a simple blood test, researchers have insisted.
Each year about 200,000 Britons are found to have hearts unable to pump blood properly. In 2010 regulators recommended an easy blood test which can help tell doctors if a patient’s heart is not strong enough.
A team from Oxford University analysed data from 1,400 GP practices to see how use of the test varied over 14 years.
In 2004, just 0.4 per cent of people with heart failure underwent the test prior to diagnosis. This rose to 23.3 per cent by 2017 – but the scientists said further improvements need to be made.
Each year about 200,000 Britons are found to have hearts unable to pump blood properly. In 2010 regulators recommended an easy blood test which can help tell doctors if a patient’s heart is not strong enough
The natriuretic peptide test measures hormones that help regulate blood volume. Dr Clare Taylor, a lecturer at Oxford, said heart failure affects a million Britons and the study showed ‘missed opportunities for us to diagnose sooner’.#
Dr Taylor said: ‘As a GP I often see patients with heart failure.
‘It is a serious, life-threatening condition that that affects around one million people in the UK alone.
‘There are 200,000 new cases each year, and about 80 per cent of these patients are only diagnosed when they are so unwell they’ve needed to be admitted to hospital.
‘As GPs we can do a simple blood test in primary care which tells us if heart failure is likely. If it’s raised, we can refer for a heart scan and assessment by a cardiologist.
‘The heart failure detection rate in our study over a 14-year period remained the same, suggesting there are still missed opportunities for us to diagnose sooner through testing.
The natriuretic peptide test measures the concentration of specific hormones that help regulate blood volume
‘There are many treatments that improve both quality of life and survival, but we need to give them earlier so patients benefit sooner and avoid hospitalisation, which is why this testing is so important.’
The natriuretic peptide test measures the concentration of specific hormones that help regulate blood volume.
When the heart isn’t strong enough, it releases more of these hormones as a result of the pressure of having to work harder, which can be a sign of heart failure.
The study’s findings, published in the European Heart Journal, also revealed most tests were carried out in patients with more advanced heart failure.
This, the authors say, suggests that progress has not been made in testing early enough to get a timely diagnosis, and that many patients with more subtle clinical symptoms and signs may not currently be tested.
First author Andrea Roalfe said: ‘We did see more NP testing in older and more socially deprived groups, which we expected since these groups are typically at a higher risk of heart failure.’
The researchers conclude that more NP testing is likely needed from GPs to prevent hospitalisation and to help diagnose heart failure at an earlier, more treatable stage to increase quality of life and survival rates.
The tests should be done in people with heart failure symptoms such as breathlessness, fatigue and ankle swelling, they added.