April 25, 2006

Care for congenital heart patients lacking -study

LONDON (Reuters) - Care for adults in Europe born with
congenital heart disease needs to be improved because there are
not enough specialists and an increasing number of patients,
according to a poll released on Wednesday.

The Euro Heart Survey on Adult Congenital Heart Disease,
conducted by researchers from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany
and Switzerland, analyzed care for congenital heart disease
sufferers from data provided by 71 centers across Europe.

"We can definitely say that the provision of care overall
is suboptimal and there is much room for improvement," said Dr
Philip Moons of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

Congenital heart disease refers to abnormalities in the
heart that are present at birth. It is responsible for more
deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defect.

Some of the problems can be treated with medication while
others require surgery. Improved treatment means that many
children born with heart problems now survive into adulthood.

"Our findings suggest that the number of adequately
equipped centers is too limited to support the more than 1.2
million adults with congenital heart disease in Europe," Moons,
lead author of report, added in a statement.

Moons and his team said they could not draw conclusions
about care in individual nations because they did not receive
information from centers in all countries.

But the survey, published in the European Heart Journal,
showed that many specialist centers did not perform the
recommended minimum number of congenital heart operations a
year and did not have specialist nurses on staff.

The researchers said a referral center should have at least
one, and preferably two, cardiologists trained in adult
congenital heart disease. Specialist centers should provide
care in connection with pediatric cardiology and/or congenital
cardiac surgery.

Ideally surgeons should perform 125 operations a year, with
a minimum of 50 for adult congenital heart disease, they added.
There should also be at least one nurse specialist trained in
the care of adult congenital heart disease patients, according
to the recommendations.

"If we are fully to realize the benefits of cardiac surgery
that can now be performed in infants and children, healthcare
professionals must apply continuous effort to implement these
recommendations," Moons added.