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Editorial articles

May 2024 Br J Cardiol 2024;31:45–8 doi:10.5837/bjc.2024.019

Cardiac ejection fraction as a problematic metric for heart failure phenotyping

Rienzi A Diaz-Navarro, Peter L M Kerkhof

Abstract

“Seek simplicity and distrust it.”
Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947), English philosopher and mathematician

The metric ejection fraction (EF) is widely employed to evaluate ventricular pumping performance, used for heart failure (HF) classification, and its calculation is simple.1–3 For example, with end-systolic volume (ESV) =50 ml and end-diastolic volume (EDV) =100 ml, the EF=50%. Unfortunately, its correct interpretation received insufficient attention. As EF is a ratio-based number (or percentage) without physical unit(s), it cannot provide unique information. The underlying problem, and also a logical solution, can be shown by the ventricular volume domain representation (figure 1A) that relates ESV to EDV. Volumes may be indexed (i) for body surface area, if appropriate. Focusing on ESVi and EDVi is important, as this combination is associated with the familiar pressure–volume (PV) loop description, which, in turn, connects with clinically relevant characteristics, such as stroke work and myocardial oxygen consumption (MVO2).1

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April 2024 Br J Cardiol 2024;31:43–4 doi:10.5837/bjc.2024.013

The impact of air pollution on atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease development

Clayton Tewma, Justin Lee Mifsud

Abstract

Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide, causing around 17.9 million deaths annually, a third of whom are adults aged <70 years.1 In addition to genetic and behavioural risk factors (unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and tobacco and alcohol abuse), inhaling airborne pollutants, such as fine particulate matter (<2.5 µm [PM2.5] and <10 µm [PM10]), ultrafine particles (UFPs; <100 nm), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), and sulphur dioxide (SO2), are associated with ASCVD among adults.2

Air pollution has been referred to as “the single most important environmental factor presenting a risk to health and represents a greater disease burden than polluted water, soil contamination and occupational exposures combined”.3 Air pollution is a silent killer and was highlighted as a significant public health concern in the recently published European Society of Cardiology (ESC) guidelines.4

The impact of urbanisation on air pollution levels is a critical concern for countries like Malta, which have adopted a city model to bolster their economies. Despite efforts to stimulate economic growth, the rise in urbanisation can pose risks to air quality. In London, mean PM2.5 concentrations stood at approximately 12.7 µg/m³ in 2017, 12.0 µg/m³ in 2018, and 11.4 µg/m³ in 2019.5 Conversely, Valletta, Malta’s capital, recorded mean PM2.5 concentrations of about 14 µg/m³ in 2017, 14.4 µg/m³ in 2018, and 14 µg/m³ in 2019.6 While both have seen improvements in their aggregated annual mean PM2.5 concentrations compared with the concentration levels recorded in the past decade, they still exceed the World Health Organisation (WHO) annual air quality guideline value by approximately 1.14 to 1.4 times, highlighting the persistent challenge of air pollution in urban environments.

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February 2024 Br J Cardiol 2024;31:7–8 doi:10.5837/bjc.2024.005

Rewriting the heart failure pillars toward less burdensome heart failure care pathways

Rosalynn C Austin

Abstract

At the Association of Cardiovascular Nursing & Allied Professions conference in June, Professor Tiny Jaarsma called for a pillar of self-care to be added to heart failure (HF) care guidelines.1 Taylor et al.2 agree that HF care needs an additional pillar and suggest cardiac rehabilitation. Currently, the HF pillars are focused on medications shown to improve the outcomes of people with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF),3 but other key non-pharmacological interventions are not considered. Also, the pillars of care do not provide guidance for people with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), which represent 50% of the HF population.4 While these pillars focus on a single important aspect of care, they do not capture the totality of HF management or illness types. A focus on interventions to improve HF management is welcome but can obscure the challenges that treatment – as well as illness – impose on patients and their carers.

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January 2024 Br J Cardiol 2024;31:4–6 doi:10.5837/bjc.2024.001

Dishing out the meds

David Mulcahy, Palwasha Khan

Abstract

Twenty years ago, Wald and Law1 hypothesised that, if a combination pill could be made including aspirin, folic acid, a statin, and a low-dose diuretic, beta blocker and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor (thus, allowing for the simultaneous modification of four different risk factors: low-density lipoprotein [LDL]-cholesterol, blood pressure, homocysteine, and platelet function), and administered to everyone with existing cardiovascular disease and everyone over 55 years old, there would be an 88% reduction in ischaemic heart disease events, and an 80% reduction in stroke. One third of people over the age of 55 years would benefit by gaining an average of 11 years free from a cardiac event or stroke (subsequently termed the vaccination approach). They called this pill the ‘Polypill’, and concluded that treatment would be acceptably safe and, with widespread use, would have a greater impact on the prevention of disease in the Western world than any other single intervention. They noted that, while such a preventative strategy was radical, if such a formulation existed that prevented cancer and was safe, it would be widely used. “It is time to discard the view that risk factors need to be measured and treated individually if found to be abnormal. There is much to gain and little to lose by the widespread use of these drugs.” While subsequent works have shown that folic acid is not prognostically beneficial in preventing cardiovascular disease,2 and that aspirin may not be beneficial overall in primary prevention settings,3 the concept of the combination pill was awakened in the public eye.

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November 2023 Br J Cardiol 2023;30:123–4 doi:10.5837/bjc.2023.036

Future-proofing UK echocardiography

Claire L Colebourn

Abstract

It is no secret that the National Health Service (NHS) is currently screaming along in fifth gear just to stay on a country lane: and we haven’t yet reached the motorway that lies ahead.

The NHS long-term plan couldn’t be more current, but it could perhaps have been more timely.1 Successive governments have watched our population changing shape and ageing over the last 20 years, but a powerful response to that looming ‘motorway’ of healthcare demand has only now materialised. The backlash of COVID-19 and the realisation of the impact of Brexit on NHS staff has become the ‘speed camera’ the NHS needed.

In 2022, the British Society of Echocardiography (BSE) commissioned Professor Alison Leary, Chair of Workforce Modelling at London South Bank University, to design a workforce survey that would allow us to fully understand the challenges facing the echocardiography workforce. This report and the policy report, which models solutions onto these data, can be read in full through our website (bsecho.org).2,3

This is my viewpoint on the messages contained within these gold-dust documents painted within the landscape of three years of fascinating conversations with many members of our profession and the national agencies we interact with.

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August 2023 Br J Cardiol 2023;30:83–5 doi:10.5837/bjc.2023.023

The delusion of measuring blood pressure

Gloria Hong, Breanna Hansen, Martha Gulati

Abstract

Hypertension affects over a billion people worldwide and is a leading cause of premature death and disability. However, it continues to remain a silent epidemic, with the majority of patients undiagnosed or untreated. The World Health Organisation reports that only 42% of individuals with hypertension receive a diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Furthermore, only one in five adults have their blood pressure under control.1 These statistics reflect a grave failure in identifying and managing a condition that has far-reaching health consequences. The misdiagnosis and undertreatment of blood pressure pose substantial risks to individuals and impose a tremendous burden on healthcare systems worldwide.

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April 2023 Br J Cardiol 2023;30:43–4 doi:10.5837/bjc.2023.010

Improving access to echocardiography for the detection and follow-up of heart valve disease in the UK

Madalina Garbi

Abstract

Access to echocardiography represents the main current barrier to early detection of heart valve disease in the UK. One-third to two-thirds of outpatient echocardiography requests are made to investigate a murmur,1–3 and almost a fifth of cases have moderate or severe heart valve disease.3 In early 2022, 155,000 people were waiting for outpatient echocardiography in the UK,4 with up to 91,450 likely to have a murmur, and up to 16,461 likely to have moderate or severe heart valve disease. Delayed diagnosis causes delay in management with potential negative consequences on patient outcome. Consequently, the British Heart Valve Society (BHVS) recommends easy access to echocardiography for patients with suspected heart valve disease; it also recommends that echocardiography departments have a system of alerts for detected significant heart valve disease.

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March 2023 Br J Cardiol 2023;30:5–6 doi:10.5837/bjc.2023.008

Introduction to the three-part series on aortic dissection

Catherine Fowler, Manoj Kuduvalli, Graham Cooper

Abstract

Aortic dissection is often thought of as a rare condition with a poor prognosis and to be the provenance of a few medical specialists. Beyond this misconception, there are further challenges; half of the people who suffer an acute aortic dissection die before reaching hospital,1 and the number of sufferers is set to double by 2050.1 As many people suffer an aortic dissection each year as are diagnosed with a brain tumour,2 and 7% of people who have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest do so due to an aortic dissection.3

While treatment of patients with an acute dissection is usually undertaken by a few medical specialists, a wide range of healthcare professionals may interact with patients with an aortic dissection. As well as cardiac and vascular surgeons, pre-hospital clinicians, emergency medicine, acute medicine, cardiology and general practice are all likely to encounter patients with aortic dissection.

Education and pathway improvement are key elements of improving outcomes for patients with aortic dissection. It is a great pleasure to share three articles as a partnership between The Aortic Dissection Charitable Trust and British Journal of Cardiology, and in collaboration with the UK-Aortic Society.

The first article is written by Dr Karen Booth who is a Consultant Cardiac Surgeon at Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne, and focuses on the epidemiology, pathophysiology and natural history of acute aortic dissection.

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February 2023 Br J Cardiol 2023;30:7–9 doi:10.5837/bjc.2023.003

SGLT2 inhibitors in CKD and HFpEF: two new large trials and two new meta-analyses

Kaitlin J Mayne, David Preiss, William G Herrington

Abstract

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) and heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) commonly co-exist. Sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors have recently emerged as key disease-modifying therapies for both conditions. In the second half of 2022, EMPA-KIDNEY (Empagliflozin in Patients with Chronic Kidney Disease) and DELIVER (Dapagliflozin Evaluation to Improve the LIVEs of Patients With PReserved Ejection Fraction Heart Failure) – two large placebo-controlled trials conducted in these populations – published their main results and expanded the evidence base in patients with and without diabetes. About one-half of each of the trials’ respective populations did not have diabetes at recruitment.1,2 Importantly, EMPA-KIDNEY represents patients with low levels of kidney function: mean estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) of 37 ± 14 ml/min/1.73 m2. Both trials’ main reports were accompanied by meta-analyses in The Lancet, ensuring the new results could be reviewed in the context of the totality of evidence.

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January 2023 Br J Cardiol 2023;30:10–1 doi:10.5837/bjc.2023.001

What can we do to improve the diagnosis and treatment of aortic stenosis?

Ishtiaq Ali Rahman, Gopal Bhatnagar

Abstract

Calcific aortic valve stenosis (aortic stenosis [AS] characterised by progressive fibro-calcific leaflet remodelling) leading to blood flow restriction is the most frequent structural heart disease, with mortality rates increasing across Europe since 2000. Symptoms are insidious at onset and development of any of the three cardinal symptoms of angina, syncope, or heart failure portend a poor prognosis, with aortic valve replacement (AVR) showing a consistent improvement for both symptom-free and overall survival.

Current guidelines recommend AVR in symptomatic severe AS but the role of AVR in patients with asymptomatic severe or moderate stenosis is evolving. In the last decade the rapid adoption of transcatheter AVR (TAVR) has raised new treatment paradigms for AVR across the spectrum of risk. Opportunities to improve outcomes include earlier diagnosis and a reconsideration of intervention timing in the asymptomatic severe and moderate categories of AS, along with a reconsideration of the patient lifelong aortic valve care plan.

International guidelines recommend multi-disciplinary ‘Heart Teams’ as the preferred clinical method in decision-making1 for multi-dimensional, pre-procedural work-up: surgical risk evaluation; clinical assessment; multi-modality valve imaging; and coronary disease management. Heart Teams have evolved central to the process, and bear responsibility for offering each patient a tailored approach.2 With approximately 5,000 AS patients having not received treatment, over eight months in 2020, following the COVID-19 outbreak (UK TAVR Registry and the National Adult Cardiac Surgery Audit),3 there is a need to meet increasing demands and reverse the drop in SAVR/TAVR activity. The authors have reviewed what the future holds for AS management.

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