Research shows one lapse in care can be fatal for heart attack patients

15 September 2014        

A man clutching his chest in pain as if he is having a heart attack. A woman stands by him, concerned, with her arms on his shoulders.

New research we fund shows that patients who miss at least one of nine treatments for a heart attack have a 46 per cent increased risk of death within a month of leaving hospital.

The study, led by Dr Chris Gale at the University of Leeds, also revealed a 74% increased chance of dying within one year if any component of care is missed.

The results are based on patients missing at least one of nine elements of care - pre-hospital electrocardiogram, acute use of aspirin, restoring blood flow to the heart (known as reperfusion), prescription at hospital discharge of aspirin, timely use of four types of drug for heart attack (ACE-inhibitors, beta-blockers, angiotensin receptor blockers and statins) and referral for cardiac rehabilitation after discharge from hospital.

Using one of the largest registries measuring heart attack outcomes, researchers showed around half of about 31,000 heart attack patients discharged from hospital in England and Wales between January 2007 and December 2010 missed the opportunity to receive a potentially life-saving course of treatment.

Optimising care

This research shows the importance of ensuring all elements of care for heart attack patients are optimally delivered

Professor Peter Weissberg
Medical Director, BHF

Our Medical Director, Professor Peter Weissberg, said: “The study demonstrates the immense power of collecting ‘real world’ clinical data from doctors and their patients.

“The key message is that someone’s recovery from a heart attack is not solely dependent on any single element of the care pathway. This research shows the importance of ensuring all elements of care for heart attack patients are optimally delivered.

“By focusing on these findings, all centres should be able to improve further the outcome for their patients suffering a heart attack.”

The research also showed that hospitals with fewer specialist beds for heart attack patients were more likely to miss opportunities to deliver care. Hospitals with no specialist cardiology beds missed care opportunities 11 per cent more often than hospitals with more than 50 specialist cardiology beds.

Life-saving heart attack treatments

Research funded by your donations has helped to pave the way for life-saving heart attack treatments. Today in the UK, around 480 people will go to hospital suffering from a heart attack. But around seven in ten will now survive to return home to their families.

This figure was unthinkable when the BHF was started over 50 years ago. However, cardiovascular disease still kills around one in four of us, meaning we need your continued support to fund the groundbreaking research that could save many more lives.

The research has been published in European Heart Journal Acute Cardiovascular Care.