Leicester leads study pointing to postcode lottery in aneurysm care

A postcode lottery in access to treatment means people suffering from thoracic aortic diseases are up to four times more likely to receive treatment in some parts of the UK compared to others, according to new research funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and led by University researchers.

This results in significant regional variation in treatment and mortality rates according to the study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

A thoracic aortic aneurysm is the dangerous swelling and weakening of the aorta above the diaphragm. If untreated, an aneurysm is more likely to rupture or tear, which is fatal in 80 per cent of cases.

The team used data from the database for hospital episode statistics (HES) to analyse 24,548 cases of thoracic aorta disease in England between financial years 2004/2005 and 2010/2011, and from the National Adult Cardiac Surgery Audit (NACSA).

The study is the first nationwide analysis of the quality and quantity of care for patients with thoracic aortic disease.

Dr Giovanni Mariscalco, honorary Consultant Cardiothoracic and Adult Congenital Heart Surgeon at the University of Leicester, who led the research, said: “This study has shown that patients across the country who have a potentially life-threatening thoracic aortic disease are not receiving equal treatment or consistent care.

“It is clear that, in some regions, patients will not receive treatment and will therefore be at a greater risk of dying as a result of their condition.

“Now that we have identified this issue, it is vital that changes are made to ensure that a patient suffering from a thoracic aneurysm in Newcastle receives the same level of treatment as a similar patient in Brighton.”