Specialist clinic 'gamechanger' for women with rare heart condition

Jackie Turnbull suffered a spontaneous coronary artery dissection just days after completing a half marathon.

A woman whose life was disrupted by a rare heart condition says Scotland’s new specialised clinic has been a gamechanger.

Jackie Turnbull suffered a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) last year – a rare type of heart attack that mostly affects women.

Patients previously had to travel to England, but now they’re being seen at a new pilot clinic at Forth Valley Royal Hospital near Falkirk.

Ms Turnbull discovered her condition just days after completing her latest half marathon.

The rare heart condition stopped the keen runner in her tracks and she was off work for around five months.

Jackie Turnbull.

Ms Turnbull told STV News: “The symptoms are very alike to having a heart attack – however it’s not your usual candidate is what’s been explained to myself. I’m not overweight, I’ve not got high cholesterol, I’m not diabetic.

“Everybody knows me as being very fit and supporting others to improve their health through fitness.

“So to be diagnosed with a rare condition called SCAD was overwhelming. I had tears in my eyes, I didn’t know what to do or think about what’s going to happen now – in terms of ‘will I be able to do my running, will I be able to continue doing things I love doing in terms of keeping fit’?

“So yeah, there was lots of questions. How long will I live? I was thinking ‘wow, is this going to be something that’s going to affect me for the rest of my life?'”

The condition effectively tore part of the wall of the artery on Jackie’s heart. Its rarity and similarity to heart attacks means patients often go without correct treatments.

But the specialist clinic at Forth Valley Royal Hospital is trying to change that.

Professor Lis Neubeck, head of cardiovascular health at Edinburgh Napier University.

Professor Lis Neubeck, head of cardiovascular health at Edinburgh Napier University, said: “So far every patient we’ve had has responded extremely positively to being able to see a specialist in their own country and the decrease in the amount of travel that they’ve had to do.

“But also being able to see somebody sooner as well because with the number of people who now have a SCAD – there’s around 50 a year in Scotland, we really needed to bring something local so that they could be seen.”

Consultant cardiologist Anne Scott, who has worked on the pilot programme since it began in September, says the clinic is about tailoring treatments to suit each patient.

Dr Anne Scott.

“They need slightly different treatment from patients who have heart attacks due to more common ruffling of the heart arteries, so we alter the medication slightly.

“We alter some of the advice around exercise and rehabilitation, and also because this condition predominantly affects women, there are often questions around pregnancy or around HRT (hormone replacement therapy) that are very important for those women moving forward.”

Around 50 Scots are known to suffer SCADs each year but researchers say the real number is likely higher.

But there’s signs this trial will help improve diagnosis and get patients like Ms Turnbull back up to speed sooner.

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