Research shows test could improve heart attack treatment

3 September 2014        

Blood pressure assessment

A clinical trial we funded at six UK hospitals has found that a blood pressure test could improve treatment for some heart attack patients. The study was led by researchers from the University of Glasgow.

The test allowed the researchers to see that one in ten patients may not need a stent following a heart attack. It also helped cardiologists to use stents more effectively when they were needed. If these findings are confirmed in a larger study, this test could be used to improve treatment and help save money.

What is the test?

The clinical trial assessed the benefits of a test, carried out during the angiogram, which measured the blood pressure through a narrowed artery. This measurement is known as the Fractional Flow Reserve (FFR). Cardiologists could then use this FFR information to decide on the best treatment for the heart attack patient.

The people who volunteered for the trial had all had NSTEMI heart attacks, where the blood supply to the heart had been limited rather than totally blocked off. NSTEMI is the most common type of heart attack.

Each person had the standard treatment where they were assessed using an angiogram and each person also underwent FFR. The FFR information was made available at random to half of the cardiologists who were then able to use it to decide which treatment the patient needed.

Findings of the clinical trial

The trial showed that around 23 per cent of the 176 patients whose treatment was guided by the FFR measurement did not require a stent or bypass surgery but were able to have their condition managed with medicines. Around 13 per cent of the 174 patients who received standard care were found not to need these procedures, showing the FFR to be more effective in providing information for cardiologists.

The results show that FFR could be used more widely to improve the accuracy of diagnosing NSTEMI heart attack patients. This would improve their treatment and potentially save money by reducing the number of unnecessary procedures carried out.

Our Medical Director, Professor Peter Weissberg, said:

These promising findings show a possible way to improve how cardiologists decide how to treat people

Professor Peter Weissberg
Medical Director

Someone has a heart attack in the UK every three minutes, meaning research to enhance diagnosis and treatment is crucial. These promising findings show a possible way to improve how cardiologists decide how to treat people who have had an NSTEMI heart attack, where the blood supply to the heart is only partially blocked.

“This test might stop patients being given stents unnecessarily, which could also reduce the cost of care. A much bigger study is now needed to be certain that measuring blood flow in this way will lead to better outcomes for patients and save money for the NHS.”

The results of the trial were presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Barcelona.

Like all research we fund, this was only made possible by your support. Help us keep funding lifesaving research.