Every year, an estimated 697,000 Americans die from heart disease, making it the leading cause of death in the country. Specific heart disorders are incredibly prevalent, and while there are treatment options available, their effectiveness varies. Additionally, some treatment approaches come with undesirable side effects, complications, or increased costs.
As a result, clinical research often focuses on improving available treatments. Here’s a look at five common heart disorders, overviews of existing treatment strategies, and how cardiology clinical trials and contract research organizations (CROs) are working to improve lives through cutting-edge innovation.
5 Common Heart Disorders and How to Treat Them
1. Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common form of heart disease in the United States, and approximately 18.2 million American adults have the condition. CAD occurs when blockages – typically caused by cholesterol or other plaque building up in the coronary arteries – restrict blood flow to the heart muscle. If the plaque breaks away and damages the arteries, white blood cells can accumulate in the area, further reducing blood flow.
The treatment of CAD varies depending on the severity of the condition. Usually, a combination of lifestyle changes – such as eating a healthier diet, quitting tobacco, and exercising – and medications or surgical procedures are used. The types of medications to treat CAD can include cholesterol-reducing drugs, blood thinners, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, and others. The most common surgical procedures are coronary angioplasty and CABG surgery.
2. Myocardial Infarction
Every year, an estimated 805,000 Americans have a myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack. Among them, approximately 605,000 experienced their first heart attack, while around 200,000 have had a previous heart attack.
Myocardial infarctions occur when there’s insufficient blood flow to the heart muscle, leading to an inadequate supply of oxygen to the tissue. They can also occur when a person is under-oxygenated, limiting the amount of oxygen in the blood. In either case, the heart muscle is damaged or begins to die, resulting in a heart attack.
The treatment for a myocardial infarction varies depending on the severity of the tissue death and the cause of the low oxygen supply. In most cases, rapid treatment can improve outcomes, so if a patient is at a higher risk of a heart attack, it is important to have aspirin or other prompt therapies on hand. Medications or surgeries like those used for treating the after-math myocardial infarctions are common, though other approaches not mentioned above – like cardiac catheterization or bypass surgery – may also be appropriate.
3. Congestive Heart Failure
Approximately 6.2 million American adults have heart failure, a condition where the heart isn’t capable of pumping enough blood to meet the needs of a person’s body. Usually, it’s characterized by the weakening of the heart muscles.
The cause of congestive heart failure varies. While CAD is one cause, it may also occur due to high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, or thyroid disease. As a result, treatment regimens can differ depending on the underlying condition. However, ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, diuretics, and several other medications are commonly part of the equation, and some patients may require surgical intervention, such as bypass surgery or heart valve repair.
Arrhythmias are non-conforming heartbeat patterns resulting from electrical signals not coordinating properly, causing heartbeat irregularities like bradycardia, tachycardia, or premature heartbeats. The predominant type of treated heart arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation (AFib). By 2030, an estimated 12.1 million Americans will have the condition.
Whether an arrhythmia requires treatment depends on the severity and resulting symptoms. Medications are potentially used to prevent non-standard heart rhythms, as well as surgical treatments like catheter ablation, pacemakers, and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs).
5. Heart Valve Abnormalities
An estimated 2.5 percent of Americans have heart valve disease. The condition involves improper heart valve operation due to structural or functional abnormalities, leading to issues like blockages, regurgitation, atresia, or stenosis.
In most cases, medications like beta blockers or calcium channel blockers are used to reduce symptoms. However, surgical repair, valve replacement, or balloon valvuloplasty are potentially necessary in cases where medication alone is insufficient.
How Clinical Trials Are Advancing the Treatment of Heart Disorders
While there are treatment options for many common heart disorders, cures are incredibly rare. Additionally, some existing treatments come with significant risks, such as medication side effects, post-surgical complications, or overall ineffectiveness.
Current cardiology clinical trials are aiming to find treatment options that are both more effective and safer to use. Plus, clinical research typically seeks out cures that make ongoing treatment unnecessary.
Vial’s Cardiology CRO is driving innovation by delivering results and accelerating clinical research timelines through greater efficiency. Our team of ClinOps and scientific advisors provides strategic guidance to streamline processes by identifying critical infrastructure.
Through Vial’s Cardiology CRO, cardiological research teams have access to leading innovative technology solutions, highly-experienced PMs, talented CRAs, and more, improving clinical ops, data management, and project management. Contact Vial to learn more about our full-service CRO solutions today.