2021, Volume 28, Issue 1, pages 1–40

2021, Volume 28, Issue 1, pages 1–40

Editorials Clinical articles News and views
Topics include:-
  • COVID-19 treatments and potential for cardiotoxicity
  • Mobile detection of AF in primary care
  • Focus on Takotsubo syndrome
  • Driving after cardiac intervention


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March 2021 Br J Cardiol 2021;28:3–4 doi:10.5837/bjc.2021.008

One race, one science

Henry Oluwasefunmi Savage


The world is changing or is it? Science is changing or is it?

The concept of race based on skin colour, is an entirely social construct and its harbinger, segregation and slavery, projects itself into our modern day as racism. Perhaps more recently, it is acknowledged that racism remains a clear and present danger in today’s world. It is deeply rooted within the fabric of society and can only be tackled by active and persistent engagement.

In scientific circles, what is whispered but not openly spoken about is the cumulative acts of indifference that contribute to racial disparities in healthcare within our society. This comes in the form of implicit and subconscious biases that affect healthcare allocation and worse, delivery, in the form of differential treatment of patients.1 This is as deadly as it is silent. As clinicians and academics who contribute to healthcare, we can either pretend this doesn’t exist or we can educate ourselves, and others, to foster health equity for all.

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January 2021 Br J Cardiol 2021;28:5–6 doi:10.5937/bjc.2021.004

ISCHEMIA trial: do the new stable chest pain guidelines need updating?

Khaled Alfakih, Saad Fyyaz, Andrew Wragg


The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) updated their guidelines on stable chest pain in 2019,1 and recommended the use of either imaging stress tests or computed tomography (CT) coronary angiography (CTCA). They emphasised the importance of imaging stress tests or CT fractional flow reserve (CT-FFR) as a second test, to assess any coronary stenoses found on CTCA. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) 2016 guidelines, on stable chest pain,2 recommend CTCA for all patients with new-onset chest pain and, in a separate guideline in 2017,3 recommended CT-FFR to assess coronary stenoses. This need for a second test for the assessment of the significance of coronary stenoses is to reduce the need for invasive coronary angiography (ICA), because CTCA can be associated with false-positive results, as it can overestimate the degree of coronary stenosis, compared with ICA.4

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Clinical articles

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March 2021 Br J Cardiol 2021;28:7–10 doi:10.5837/bjc.2021.007

COVID-19: treatments and the potential for cardiotoxicity

Sarah Maria Birkhoelzer, Elena Cowan, Kaushik Guha


A wide range of medications including antimalarial preparations (chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine), macrolide antibiotics (azithromycin) and the interleukin-6 inhibitor (tocilizumab) may be effective in treating patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Such agents may be associated with cardiotoxicity, and the purpose of this brief review is to draw attention to potential areas of pharmacovigilance. These include prolongation of the QT-interval and the development of occult cardiomyopathy. Alternatively, some of the agents seem to have minimal impact on the cardiovascular system. The review highlights the need for an ongoing evaluation of such agents within carefully constructed clinical trials with embedded attention to cardiovascular safety.

The reason to be cautious when evaluating curative or symptomatic treatments is the fact that SARS-CoV-2 has affected large segments of the population, with disproportionate mortality rates within certain subgroups. Some of the enhanced mortality may reflect inherent cardiovascular disease risk factors related to acute COVID-19 infection.

It is hoped that the review will stimulate a greater awareness of potential cardiovascular side effects and encourage reporting of those in future trials.

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March 2021 Br J Cardiol 2021;28:19–21 doi:10.5837/bjc.2021.009

Driving after cardiac intervention: are we doing enough?

Inderjeet Bharaj, Jaskaran Sethi, Sohaib Bukhari, Harmandeep Singh


Around 7.4 million people in the UK have heart and cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease (CAD) being the most common type. The Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has guidance for medical professionals to aid assessment of cardiac patients with respect to driving. The guidance is different for personal, Public Carriage Office (PCO) and goods vehicles. It remains the doctors’ responsibility to advise patients of any driving restrictions, as certain cardiac conditions can limit patients’ ability to drive. This gains importance especially after certain procedures. A retrospective review of discharge summaries from electronic medical records was undertaken for a period of three months to review the number of patients getting appropriate advice. It was noted that frequently no written driving advice was recorded on discharge, neglecting an important element of patient safety. Steps were taken to counteract the lack of proper driving advice and documentation, which were effective on second review. Therefore, measures similar to ones outlined here should be put in place to ensure safe discharge and knowledge of the clinicians in accordance with the DVLA guidance.

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March 2021 Br J Cardiol 2021;28:14–18 doi:10.5837/bjc.2021.010

Study of patients with iron deficiency and HF in Ireland: prevalence and treatment budget impact

Bethany Wong, Sandra Redmond, Ciara Blaine, Carol-Ann Nugent, Lavanya Saiva, John Buckley, Jim O’Neill


This study aims to present the screening, prevalence and treatment of heart failure (HF) patients with iron deficiency in an Irish hospital and use an economic model to estimate the budget impact of treating eligible patients with intravenous ferric carboxymaltose (IV FCM).

Retrospective data were collected on 151 HF patients over a one-year period from all newly referred HF patients to a secondary care hospital. This included 36 patients with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) and 115 with reduced ejection fraction (HPrEF). An existing budget impact model was adapted to incorporate Irish unit cost and resource use data to estimate the annual budget impact of treating patients with IV FCM.

The total number of HFrEF patients who met criteria for iron replacement was 44 (38% of total HFrEF patients); of this, only nine (20%) were treated. The budget impact model estimates that treating all eligible patients with IV FCM in this single centre would save 40 bed-days and over €7,600/year.

To improve the quality of life and reduce hospitalisation, further identification and treatment of iron deficient patients should be implemented. Expanding the use of IV iron nationally would be cost and bed saving.

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March 2021 Br J Cardiol 2021;28:30–4 doi:10.5837/bjc.2021.011

Takotsubo syndrome: the broken-heart syndrome

Rienzi Díaz-Navarro


Takotsubo syndrome – also known as broken-heart syndrome, Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, and stress-induced cardiomyopathy – is a recently discovered acute cardiac disease first described in Japan in 1991. This review aims to update understanding on the epidemiology, pathophysiology, clinical presentation, diagnosis, and treatment of Takotsubo syndrome, highlighting aspects of interest to cardiologists and general practitioners.

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March 2021 Br J Cardiol 2021;28:37–8 doi:10.5837/bjc.2021.012

Takotsubo syndrome: a predominantly female CV disorder, from the perspective of primary care

Melissa Matthews, Terry McCormack


We describe two cases of Takotsubo syndrome and discuss the issues relating to diagnosis and patient communication that they raise.

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March 2021 Br J Cardiol 2021;28:29–32 doi:10.5837/bjc.2021.013

ECG changes during ISWTs in adult patients commencing CR: a retrospective case note review

Alexandra Palma, Charlotte Pereira, Heather Probert, Harriet Shannon


The incremental shuttle walk test (ISWT) is a valid, reliable submaximal exercise test used in the assessment of patients prior to cardiac rehabilitation (CR). Simultaneous electrocardiogram (ECG) measurements would provide important information on the safety of the test, and adequacy of subsequent cardiac risk stratification. Risk stratification is recommended to assess patients’ suitability for cardiac rehabilitation. For example, ST-segment depression >2 mm from baseline during testing would place a person in a high-risk category. However, such ECG measurements are rarely undertaken in clinical practice. The aim of the study was to investigate the incidence of ECG changes during an ISWT, and report on the possible impact of these findings on subsequent cardiac risk stratification.

A retrospective case note review was undertaken for the year 2017. Baseline clinical characteristics from eligible patients were gathered including those with ischaemic heart disease, heart failure, transplant and valve replacement, along with ECG measurements during the ISWT. The impact of ECG findings on cardiac risk stratification was calculated, based on risk stratification developed by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. The safety of the ISWT was measured by the absence of major ECG changes.

Data were gathered for 295 patients. Minor ECG changes were identified during the ISWT in 189 patients (64.1%), with no major changes. The presence of silent myocardial ischaemia (ST-segment depression) had an impact on cardiac risk stratification in 27 patients. There was a statistically significant positive association between ST-segment depression with cardiac risk stratification (p<0.001).

In conclusion, the ISWT is safe in terms of ECG changes. The impact of ECG findings on cardiac risk stratification is significant and worthy of further consideration.

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January 2021 Br J Cardiol 2021;28:22–5 doi:10.5837/bjc.2021.001

The impact of COVID-19 on cardiology training

Samuel Conway, Ali Kirresh, Alex Stevenson, Mahmood Ahmad


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has produced a dramatic shift in how we practise medicine, with changes in working patterns, clinical commitments and training. Cardiology trainees in the UK have experienced a significant loss in training opportunities due to the loss of specialist outpatient clinics and reduction in procedural work, with those on subspecialty fellowships perhaps losing out the most. Training days, courses and conferences have also been cancelled or postponed. Many trainees have been redeployed during the crisis, and routes of career progression have been greatly affected, prompting concerns about extensions in training time, along with effects on mental health.

With the pandemic ongoing and its effects on training likely long-lasting, we examine areas for improvement and opportunities for change in preparation for the ‘new normal’, including how other specialties have adapted. The increasingly routine use of video conferencing and online education has been a rare positive of the pandemic, and simulation will play a larger role. A more coordinated, national approach will need to be introduced to ensure curriculum components are covered and trainees around the country have equal access to ensure cardiology training in the UK remains world class.

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January 2021 Br J Cardiol 2021;28:35–6 doi:10.5837/bjc.2021.002

Lockdown cardiomyopathy: from a COVID-19 pandemic to a loneliness pandemic

Baskar Sekar, Hibba Kurdi, David Smith


Social distancing/isolation is vital for infection control but can adversely impact on mental health. As the spread of COVID-19 is contained, mental health issues will surface with particular concerns for elderly, isolated populations. We present a case of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy related to lockdown anxiety.

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January 2021 Br J Cardiol 2021;28:39 doi:10.5837/bjc.2021.003

Pneumopericardium in a patient with trisomy 21 and COVID-19 following emergency pericardiocentesis

Apurva H Bharucha, Ritesh Kanyal, James W Aylward, Parthipan Sivakumar, Ian Webb


We describe a case of pneumopericardium following emergency pericardiocentesis in a patient with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

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January 2021 Br J Cardiol 2021;28:11–3 doi:10.5837/bjc.2021.005

Evaluating the use of a mobile device for detection of atrial fibrillation in primary care

Patrick J Highton, Amit Mistri, Andre Ng, Karen Glover, Kamlesh Khunti, Samuel Seidu


Atrial fibrillation (AF) increases cardio-embolic stroke risk, yet AF diagnosis and subsequent prophylactic anticoagulant prescription rates are suboptimal globally. This project aimed to increase AF diagnosis and subsequent anticoagulation prescription rates in East Midlands Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

This service improvement evaluation of the East Midlands AF Advance programme investigated the implementation of mobile AF detection devices (Kardia, AliveCor) into primary-care practices within East Midlands CCGs, along with audit tools and clinician upskilling workshops designed to increase AF diagnosis and anticoagulation prescription rates. AF prevalence and prescription data were collected quarterly from July to September (Q3) 2017/18 to April to June/July to September (Q2/3) 2018/19.

AF prevalence increased from 1.9% (22,975 diagnoses) in Q3 2017/18 to 2.4% (24,246 diagnoses) in Q2 2018/19 (p=0.026), while the percentage of high-risk AF patients receiving anticoagulants increased from 80.5% in Q3 2017/18 to 86.9% in Q3 2018/19 (p=0.57), surpassing the Public Health England 2019 target of 85%.

The East Midlands AF Advance programme increased AF diagnosis and anticoagulation rates, which is expected to be of significant clinical benefit. The mobile AF detection devices provide a more practical alternative to traditional 12-lead electrocardiograms (ECGs) and should be incorporated into routine clinical practice for opportunistic AF detection, in combination with medication reviews to increase anticoagulant prescription.

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News and views

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March 2021

BJC and SCTS announce partnership

We are delighted to announce a partnership between the British Journal of Cardiology (BJC) and the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgery of Great Britain and...

March 2021

Adrian Brady joins BJC editorial board

We are delighted to welcome Professor Adrian Brady to our editorial...

January 2021 Br J Cardiol 2021;28:40 doi:10.5937/bjc.2021.006


Variations in surgical technique for permanent pacemaker implantation in West Midlands Dear Sirs, Around 34,000 permanent pacemakers are implanted in England annually.1 With an...