Scientists shed new light on potentially fatal heart disease

March 17th, 2009 - 4:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, March 17 (IANS) Half the people hospitalised with infective endocarditis or IE, a potentially fatal heart disease, undergo heart valve replacement surgery. A definitive international study led by New Zealand clinicians and scientists has shed new light on the condition.
Endocarditis is an infection of a heart valve and has an 18 percent in-hospital mortality rate — a rate that has not changed in the last 25 years.

The one-year mortality rate is even worse, approaching 40 percent. It also has other serious health impacts such as stroke, blood clots, heart failure and other ongoing complications.

David Murdoch, professor at University of Otago, Christchurch, who led the research, said this is the largest ever study of IE, with 2,781 patients from 58 hospitals in 25 countries, and may never be repeated.

“What this study does is that it enables us to be much more definitive about the contemporary causes of this serious disease and how to better treat it and reduce the stubbornly high mortality rate,” he said.

“In particular it has shown that infective endocarditis is often an acute and serious illness that needs to be diagnosed and treated quickly with antibiotics and often surgery in order to save lives. Today it’s probably more of an acute disease than it used to be.”

About 300 people are hospitalised in New Zealand every year with infective endocarditis and the study shows that internationally 50 percent undergo heart valve replacement surgery.

The study reveals that the bacterium staphylococcus aureus is the most common cause of IE in much of the world, and that IE commonly follows degeneration of the heart valves with ageing.

This is in contrast to earlier studies that linked it to heart valve damage following rheumatic fever in younger age groups, said an Otago release.

One of the more interesting findings is that 25 percent patients with IE contracted the bacterial infection following health care, or after invasive medical care, particularly in the USA.

The research was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

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