Increase in invasive cardiac procedures responsible for improved heart attack survival

26 August 2016        

Research we funded shows that survival rates for heart attacks are increasing, despite an increase in patients who suffer from additional diseases.

A study we funded, published in the scientific journal JAMA, shows that survival following a life-altering type of heart attack has increased, despite an increase in patients with conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure which decrease a person's chance of survival. The research has shown that this increase in survival is due to the increased use of invasive cardiac procedures such as stenting, where the affected artery is widened using a mesh tube.

How did we discover this?

The team of researchers from the University of Leeds used data from the UK National Heart Attack Register, MINAP to analyse the 389,057 cases of non-ST elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI), the most common type of heart attack, in 247 hospitals in England and Wales between 1st January 2003 and 30th January 2013. 

What is an NSTEMI?

An NSTEMI heart attack is a partial blockage of one or more of the coronary arteries. Someone suffers a heart attack approximately every three minutes in the UK, with nearly 200 people of working age dying every week of a heart attack in the UK.

The results of the research

The researchers found that the overall survival rates of people who had suffered this form of heart attack improved by an average of 3.2 per cent each year between 2003 and 2013. Death rates in hospital for these patients decreased by 5.9 per cent over the same time period. 

Dr Chris Gale, Associate Professor of Cardiovascular Health Science at the University of Leeds, who led the research, said:

“Despite a decline in death rates following heart attack, coronary heart disease remains a major healthcare burden. Our study is the first to show that increased use of invasive coronary procedures has significantly contributed to improved heart attack survival, even though we found it’s more common for these people to suffer from additional conditions.”

Research is vital

Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the research, said:

“This study demonstrates the power of research on anonymised patient data to identify which interventions are having the greatest impact and how treatment can be improved. 

“Audits such as this are essential to ensure that evidence from research on how best to treat patients is being applied effectively across the UK. The good news is that applying that evidence saves lives, the bad news is that not all hospitals are applying that evidence as rigorously as they should.”

Find out how BHF-funded research is improving heart attack care.