University of Leicester eBulletin

Managing heart disease

September 2002

University of Leicester Public Lecture Explains New Methods to Diagnose and Treat Heart Failure

Although recent trends have been improving, heart disease remains a major cause of death worldwide.

Coronary artery disease is the principal cause of heart failure, and can present with symptoms of tiredness, swelling or shortness of breath, though as many as half of those suffering from heart failure may have no symptoms at all, making it difficult to detect the condition and administer life-saving therapies. Often the first people know of their condition will be a heart attack.

In his inaugural lecture, entitled "New Tools for Managing Heart Disease", Professor Leong Ng of the University of Leicester Division of Medicine and Therapeutics will explore new research into detecting heart disease before life-threatening symptoms occur.

Professor Ng said: "We have recently been researching small proteins coming from the heart (particularly the natriuretic peptides that regulate salt balance) secreted in response to stress on the heart.

"One particular new blood test developed in the University of Leicester Department of Medicine involves a peptide called N-BNP. This is secreted in increased quantities in patients with heart failure, making the peptides very useful in detecting people in the community at risk of heart failure. Even patients with no symptoms could be detected with this test.

"As heart failure is an increasingly common condition affecting mainly older people, introduction of this test could allow these patients to be treated adequately with medication that has been proven to prolong lives."

Further studies at the Leicester Royal Infirmary Cardiovascular Unit have shown that N-BNP can be useful in a hospital setting as well as in the community, for instance predicting patients at future risk of death or in need of hospital readmission.

People who have had a heart attack, angina or heart failure could therefore have their blood levels measured and their risk assessed, ensuring treatment could be prioritised in a health service that is increasingly overstretched.

In addition to the diagnosis and prognosis of heart disease, the N-BNP test may prove to have further uses in monitoring patients known to have heart failure so that their treatment could be regulated more effectively.

Just as twenty years ago routine testing of blood sugar was introduced in the care of diabetes, now the development of the N-BNP blood test may be similarly useful in the day-to-day care of heart disease, allowing accurate diagnosis, screening and planning of therapies for this major cause of mortality in the UK.

Professor Leong Ngs inaugural lecture, "New Tools for Managing Heart Disease" will take place on Tuesday 22 October at 5.30 pm in Lecture Theatre 1, Ken Edwards Building, University of Leicester main campus. The lecture is open to the public and free.

NOTE TO EDITORS: 

Further information is available from Professor Leong Ng, University of Leicester Division of Medicine and Therapeutics, telephone 0116 252 3125/3132, email lln1@le.ac.uk.

Ather Mirza
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