Aortic stenosis (AS), which is the narrowing of the aortic heart valve, affects
predominantly older people and affects up to 3% of people
over 75 years of age. Symptoms, such as chest pain, breathlessness and
feeling faint, can take years to develop. However, when they do, it means
the person is seriously ill and could die from heart failure or sudden
The exercise test, which involves cycling on a stationary bike, is used to determine whether surgery is needed for people with the condition.
If exercise test participants become breathless, they are recommended to have valve replacement therapy. About 10,000 aortic valve replacements are performed every year at a cost of up to Ģ15,000. Hospital recuperation then takes between seven and 10 days.
The exercise test is only has a 60% accuracy rate, the study found.
Professor McCann, who is also a consultant cardiologist from the NIHR Leicester Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit (BRU), said: "There is no doubt that valve replacement therapy is highly effective for patients with symptoms, however there are risks involved. It's a major operation and there's a one per cent chance of people dying or having a stroke during or after. There's also the chance they could develop an infection."
"It can often take six months to recover, but if they survive they tend to do very well afterwards. However, if we know a patient has AS and no symptoms and we do nothing there's also a one per cent chance they will die so there's a fine line between whether we should intervene or not."
"Our findings showed that this exercise test, which has been approved by the American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology and the European Society of Cardiology, was highly inaccurate as almost twice the number of people who became breathless during the test did not develop symptoms within a year."
The findings have been published in the world-leading European Heart Journal, which showcases work often considered in future guidelines.
Professor McCann now wants to conduct further research to find a more accurate way to determine whether doctors should wait for symptoms to develop or to intervene beforehand. Ultimately a clinical study comparing early surgery versus waiting for symptoms to develop is needed.