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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 23:20 GMT 00:20 UK
Concern over heart valve patients
Heart valve surgery
Heart valve surgery patients may need follow-up investigations
Patients who have had heart valves replaced may be put at risk because details of their operation are not made easily available, say researchers.

These patients are at high risk of complications such as blood clots forming on the valve, or causing to a blockage, or embolism, elsewhere in the body.

They are also susceptible to an infection of the blood stream called infective endocarditis.

The availability of an implant card can help to switch the doctors on very quickly to what the complications may be

Professor Ken Taylor
It is therefore important that their details can be readily accessed, particularly as different types of valve are associated with different complications.

It is supposed to be standard practice to issue these patients with an implant card containing details of their treatment and the type of artificial valve that has been fitted.

But a study found that nearly half of 1,900 patients identified on the UK Heart Valve Registry had not received an implant card 12 months after their operation.

In fact, if the patients had not received a card within six months of their operation, they were unlikely ever to do so.

The research was carried out by a team from the UK Heart Valve Registry based at the Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust in London.

Crucial information

Professor Ken Taylor, Director of the registry, said: "Our research clearly shows that many patients are missing out on crucial post-operative health information.

"If a patient becomes unwell and is treated by doctors who may not know that patient then the availability of an implant card can help to switch the doctors on very quickly to what the complications may be.

The Hammersmith team coordinates a nationwide collaborative project which looks at trends in heart valve surgery across the UK.

Professor Taylor said: "The database enables us to assess both the performance of different valves and the management and care of patients who have had heart valve surgery.

"The success of the registry relies on the continued collaboration and participation of all cardiac units within the UK."

Professor Taylor said the registry could help further improve care for patients across the UK by acting as central distribution point for implant cards.

This would remove the manufacturer and clinician from the process. It would also be cost effective.

The research is published in the British Medical Journal.

See also:

02 Aug 00 | Health
Heart valve breakthrough
09 Nov 99 | Health
Heart valves grown in test tube
23 Jun 00 | G-I
Heart valve disease
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