How a simple £15 hormone blood test administered by GPs could save thousands of people from hospitalization with severe heart failure each year
- About 86,000 people with severe heart failure are admitted to the emergency room every year
- A simple blood test that looks for hormones can detect the onset of disease
- It only costs £15 and takes minutes to do, but only a fifth of patients are offered it
- This means that the symptoms of possible heart failure are often misunderstood by doctors
Thousands of people are hospitalized with severe heart failure each year because doctors don’t run blood tests that can spot the warning signs, a report finds.
The life-threatening condition, in which the organ cannot pump blood effectively, leaving patients breathless and fatigued, affects nearly a million people in the UK.
About 86,000 people with heart failure are admitted to the emergency room each year, and one in five die within a year of diagnosis. However, if it is caught early, it can be controlled.
A simple blood test — called a natriuretic peptide test — that looks for the hormones released when the heart is under stress can detect the onset of heart failure.
It costs just £15 and takes minutes to perform, but only a fifth of patients showing signs of heart failure are offered it, according to an analysis of data by think tank Public Policy Projects.
Thousands of people are hospitalized with severe heart failure each year because doctors fail to perform blood tests that can spot the warning signs, a report finds (stock image)
This means that the symptoms of possible heart failure are often mistaken by doctors for something else, such as a chest infection.
Experts say it’s the main reason 80 percent of heart failure patients aren’t diagnosed until after emergency hospitalization.
Retired university administrator Lyn Whittock, 60, of East Anglia, began experiencing shortness of breath with a severe cough in 2016, but her GP believed it was a chest infection and prescribed antibiotics.
Her symptoms got worse, but she just got more antibiotics. “At no point was a test for heart failure discussed,” Lyn says.
She ended up having to undergo life-saving heart surgery.
Now that she has recovered, she hopes that others will not have to suffer like her.
She said, “I don’t understand why I wasn’t offered this blood test. I would like to see GPs more aware of the symptoms of heart failure.’
About 86,000 people with heart failure are admitted to the emergency room each year, and one in five die within a year of diagnosis. However, if caught early, it can be checked (stock image)
Charities are now calling on GPs to pay close attention to signs of heart failure and to use blood tests more widely.
“Every patient should have access to a timely diagnosis,” said Nick Hartshorne-Evans, founder and director of the heart failure charity The Pumping Marvelous Foundation.
‘A simple blood test is the essential first step to ensure that the condition can be treated appropriately. We have to break the cycle of late diagnosis of heart failure.’
GPs say it is not easy to recognize heart failure. ‘The most common symptom of heart failure is shortness of breath, but it can have a number of causes, whether it’s a lung problem or obesity,’ says Dr Clare Taylor, a general practitioner in Oxford.
‘Some GPs are also concerned about the cost of using these tests regularly. But it is crucial that GPs think about heart failure more often and use this very useful test.’