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Last Updated: Monday, 14 July, 2003, 23:23 GMT 00:23 UK
Angina costs NHS '700m a year'
Wired up using a treadmill
Angina is a common symptom of heart disease
Treating patients with chest pain caused by angina is costing the NHS at least 700 million a year, say experts.

They are calling for doctors to do more to prevent angina sufferers from needing heart bypass operations - a major part of the cost.

As many as 3% of the population suffers from angina, with the condition affecting men and women in equal numbers.

It produces chest pain during exertion and is caused by the narrowing and hardening of key arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood.

Having "unstable angina" - which can produce pain even without exertion - significantly raises the risk of a heart attack.

In many cases, the only solution is to perform a heart bypass, removing sections of furred-up artery and replacing them with blood vessels taken from the leg.

Another operation which can help is an angioplasty, in which a balloon is inflated inside a narrowed artery to improve blood flow.

High cost

However, a study by Dr Andrew Walker, from the Robertson Centre for Biostatistics at the University of Glasgow, indicates that more than 240 million a year is spent by the NHS on these operations.

It also says more than 50 million more is spent on treating patients during the recovery period.

The cost of hospital stays for angina sufferers added up to more than 200 million.

In contrast, drugs for treating angina cost the NHS 81 million a year, while appointments with GPs or specialists eat up another 90 million worth of time.

Dr Walker warned that his estimates of the true cost of angina were likely to be conservative - and to have risen since 2000, the source year for his calculations.

He said: "Angina exerts a huge economic burden on the NHS in the UK.

"Clearly there is a need to develop and apply cost-effective strategies that reduce the need for hospital treatment."

'Preventable'

The annual cost of other conditions such as stroke and diabetes are thought to be approximately 1.1 billion and 900 million respectively.

Judy O'Sullivan, a cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation told BBC News Online: "This review helps to highlight the economic pressures coronary heart disease places on the UK Health Care System.

"There are currently two million people in the country with coronary heart disease (CHD).

"CHD is largely preventable. It is important for individuals to take responsibility for their health and reduce the risks of developing CHD by eating a healthy diet and by being physically active for 30 minutes, at least five times a week."

The research was published in the journal Heart.




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