Answering questions on rare cause of heart attacks

Gillian Grey relfections of research image

We are relentlessly working to expand our knowledge of heart disease, who it affects and why. This is why we are funding the UK’s first ever research project into the rare but dangerous condition spontaneous coronary artery dissection.

Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) occurs when one or more of the inner layers of a coronary artery, which supplies vital oxygen-carrying blood to the heart, tears away from the outer layer. Blood is able to flow into the space between the layers and a blood clot forms, reducing the flow of blood through the artery. 

The science

Unfortunately we do not yet know a great deal about SCAD, which often strikes out of the blue and in people with few or no risk factors for heart and circulatory disease. The symptoms are similar to those of angina but when the artery becomes completely blocked, people can have a heart attack which can lead to heart failure, or even to a more immediate cardiac arrest.

80 per cent of people with SCAD are female, and 30 per cent of those women are nearing the end of pregnancy or have recently given birth when it strikes.

Do you have SCAD? Read our information sheet to find out more.

We awarded over £159,000 to cardiologist Dr David Adlam at the University of Leicester to lead the UK’s first ever research project into SCAD. He is establishing a database of 100 patients with SCAD that his team can study for clues about what causes the condition and how best to treat it. 

Our heart research

This research was driven by the determination of patients like Becks, a woman who was diagnosed with SCAD after suffering a heart attack aged just 34, who were looking for answers. She used social networking and internet forums to find other sufferers in the UK. They then prompted Dr Adlam to apply for funding from us for research into their condition. 

Dr Adlam and his team aim to answer two key patient-driven questions – firstly, were they going to have another heart attack and secondly, is it genetic and therefore might it affect their children.

As well as this, they hope to identify any predisposing factors which could help with future diagnoses of the condition.

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