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Inherited heart conditions are frequently being misdiagnosed

Friday 7th July 2017
A new study has indicated that many people in the UK with inherited heart conditions are having difficulty getting the right diagnoses.
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People with inherited heart conditions in the UK are having their wellbeing potentially put at risk by frequent misdiagnoses, a new study has shown.

A survey published by the British Heart Foundation has indicated that 60 per cent of people with an inherited heart problem had initially been diagnosed with another condition, with the symptoms they experienced often being incorrectly attributed to other conditions.

Whereas 40 per cent of cases were correctly diagnosed first time, 23 per cent received an initial diagnosis of stress or anxiety, while seven per cent were told they had epilepsy and five per cent received a misdiagnosis of asthma.

This is indicative of the fact that inherited heart conditions are extremely challenging to properly diagnose, as many of the associated symptoms - including difficulty with breathing, palpitations, chest tightness and a racing heart rate - could all potentially be caused by other, unrelated health complaints.

Genetic testing for families at risk can aid diagnosis in some cases, but because many of the genes responsible for the condition are still unknown, only 17 per cent of those polled said genetic testing had helped with their diagnosis, compared to 67 per cent who were diagnosed through an electrocardiogram or echocardiogram. 

Given that inherited heart problems can often result in sudden cardiac death, the study shows the importance of additional research into improved methods of diagnosis.

Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Inherited heart conditions can be silent killers. This means that early diagnosis is essential so people can be put on the right treatment and live a normal life.

"These results show that it can be extremely difficult to correctly diagnose people, meaning it's vital that we raise awareness about the symptoms and diagnostic tests for those most at risk of inherited heart conditions."

Written by Angela Newbury

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