Journal scan

Early warning signs of heart attacks 'being missed'

Symptoms may have been missed in up to one in six patients who died of a heart attack in hospital in England, new study results suggest. 

Symptoms may have been missed in up to one in six patients who died of a heart attack in hospital in England, new study results suggest. 


The study found that 16% of those who died from a heart attack
had been hospitalised during the previous month. Picture: Alamy

Researchers from Imperial College London examined the records of all 446,744 NHS hospital stays in England between 2006-10 that recorded heart attacks, as well as the hospitalisation history of all 135,950 heart attack deaths. 

The records showed whether patients who died of a heart attack had been admitted to hospital in the previous four weeks, and whether signs of a heart attack were recorded as the primary diagnosis, secondary diagnosis or not recorded at all. 

Symptoms missed

The researchers found that 16% of those who died from a heart attack had been hospitalised during the previous four weeks, but heart attack symptoms were not mentioned on their hospital records. 

188,000 

The number of hospital visits each year in the UK due to heart attacks: that's one every three minutes.

Source: British Heart Foundation

They said that symptoms such as fainting, shortness of breath and chest pain were evident up to a month before death in some of these patients, but doctors may not have realised these signalled an upcoming fatal heart attack, possibly because there was no obvious damage to the heart at the time. 

Study co-author Majid Ezzati, from Imperial's School of Public Health, said more research was needed. 'What we are now asking is, if symptoms are being missed, where they could have been discovered using the available information, how should care now be organised and what changes need to be made to prevent unnecessary deaths?' he said. 


Asaria P et al (2017) Acute myocardial infarction hospital admissions and deaths in England: a national follow-back and follow-forward record-linkage study. The Lancet Public Health. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30032-4

This article is for subscribers only

Jobs