NEW research in the US questions the theory that some forms of coronary artery disease (CAD) can be considered as minor and not a health threat.
NEW research in the US appears to question the theory that some forms of coronary artery disease (CAD) can be considered as minor and not a health threat – suggesting even the mildest conditions can increase the chances of heart attacks.
CAD happens when sticky material builds up in lumps, called plaques, on the inside of the arteries leading to the heart. Plaques can be caused by things such as smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise.
If these plaques are large, they can interfere with normal blood flow, causing pain, and of course, possibly heart attacks. As a result they are treated seriously.
However, if they are small, they have been thought unlikely to cause any health problems at all, and have often been left untreated by doctors.
Some previous studies have suggested that this approach might be flawed, and the latest detailed research in the US appears to back up that theory.
Examining the medical records of about 38,000 US military veterans aged between 51 and 68, who had undergone an angiography x-ray after experiencing chest pains, researchers found those who had non-obstructive CAD were more likely to have had a heart attack, or to have died, than people who had no CAD at all.
Researchers came to this conclusion having looked at how many people were hospitalised with a heart attack in the year after their angiography, and how many died (of any cause). This enabled them to see if there was any link between the level of CAD and how likely people were to have had a heart attack or died.
They concluded that people with non-obstructive CAD were two to four-and-a-half times more likely to have had a heart attack than those with no CAD.
For doctors, this now poses an interesting question. Does this research mean they have to change their approach and treat minor CAD differently?
Many cases of medical negligence are brought against doctors by specialist solicitors as a result of them failing to rule out all possibilities when a patient comes to them with a complaint, only later to find they have missed a condition which has led to serious illness, or death.
Should they be questioned, medical professionals will always quite rightly point to following guidelines and procedures.
But surely following detailed research and findings such as this, doctors in the UK need to be re-examining their approach to CAD and the treatment of it.
Neil Hudgell Solicitors are specialists in clinical negligence and personal injury, representing clients across the UK on a no win no fee basis.