Just what is the best time to conduct heart surgery? A new British study aims to provide the answer to help maximize results and minimize the risk for heart disease patients’ health.

The research, which costs STG1.3 million or $1.9 million (US), ventures to track more efficiently when a heart being operated on is beginning to fail. This is poised to help health care providers decide on the best time for the surgery while limiting the risks for patients’ well-being.

Timing is crucial in cardiac surgery, as doing so too early can introduce unnecessary risks, while performing it too late can no longer address irreversibly damaged heart muscles.

Optimizing Time Of Surgery

The Edinburgh study, which will include about 200 to 300 Scottish participants, will focus on patients of aortic stenosis, the most typical form of heart valve condition. This type is caused by a major valve’s narrowing, which adds pressure to a heart muscle and decreases its ability to properly pump.

Aortic stenosis can lead to heart failure or sudden death. According to researchers, the severity of the disease is tough to gauge, especially among the elderly who may be suffering from a couple of other health issues.

British Heart Foundation research fellow Dr. Marc Dweck said the heart disease is very common and can set the stage for an epidemic given an aging population.

“Rates are set to treble by 2050, so it is crucial to develop new interventions now,” he said.

In the trial, the patients will undergo detailed heart scanning and blood testing, which will track their heart’s capacity to pump blood. This will offer a baseline that will be compared against their heart function in the future.

Early surgery will be given to half of the patients, while later treatment will be given to the other half.

The analysis of heart function before and after operation will help doctors know the impact of replacement valves, as well as tell parts of the surgery that led to the greatest results.

Dr. Dweck proposed that optimizing the timing of surgery could be key in better results.

“[We hope] we can deliver major reductions in patient illness and death, leading to a step-change in treatment,” he added.

Heart Health In The U.S.

In the United States, coronary artery disease emerges as the most common heart condition, and this decreases blood flow to the heart and puts the sufferer at risk for a heart attack.

Risks could be introduced as early as the diagnosis stage. A new study, for instance, warned that the typical American received a 20 percent higher radiation dose than someone getting myocardial perfusion imaging outside the country.

Also known as a nuclear stress test, this method is done on millions of Americans each year to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of coronary artery disease.

Senior study author Dr. Andrew Einstein from New York’s Columbia University Medical Center said in an email interview that the benefits of the nuclear scan can far outweigh the risk of radiation exposure when done appropriately.

“[I]t is still incumbent upon doctors to minimize the amount of radiation that patients receive from such testing while simultaneously ensuring a good quality heart study,” he added.

In an editorial, Dr. Rebecca Smith-Bindman from University of California, San Francisco, said the right imaging tests done at the right time can lead to more timely, accurate diagnosis and better treatment options.

Doing them unnecessarily and improperly, though, can harm patients and cause anxiety, lead to irrelevant findings and expose them to ionizing radiation.

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