Aug. 2 (UPI) -- If relatives of patients with aortic diseases are genetically tested, it could cut down on the number of deaths from them, according to research analysis.
Researchers, who were led by scientists at the University of Leicester in England, found that 30 percent of relatives of patients with thoracic aortic diseases have an underlying genetic predisposition to developing the disease -- 33 percent of first-degree relatives, 24 percent of second-degree ones and 15 percent of third generation. Specific gene mutations were observed in 25 percent of the screened families.
The findings were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The research through last December included 53 studies with a total of 2,696 relatives screened, including 49 percent genetic, 11 percent imaging and a combination of the two at 40 percent.
The aorta is the main artery that supplies blood from the heart. Aneurysms, tears in the inner lining called aortic dissection and penetrating ulcers require immediate treatment.
"Traditionally, aortic dissection has been regarded by the medical profession as a 'silent killer,' striking mainly the over-65s, with little opportunity for prediction or prevention," Dr. Gareth Owens, lead of Aortic Dissection Awareness in Britain and Ireland, said in a press release. "Sadly, we know of many patients in the UK and Ireland who died suddenly due to a lack of appropriate screening. Patients who survive aortic dissection say their No. 1 worry is that close relatives may also be affected by the condition."
A 2016 study found that TAD quickly becomes life-threatening, as 17.6 percent of patients die before hospital arrival, compared with 21.4 who arrived alive at the hospital, 21.4 percent after 24 hours and 45.2 at 30 days.
"The evidence suggests that screening of first- and second-degree relatives of patients affected by familial non-syndromic thoracic aortic diseases and first-degree relatives of those affected by sporadic TAD will result in a significant number of patients being diagnosed who would otherwise remain unaware they suffer from the disease, which could potentially save lives," said study leader Dr. Giovanni Mariscalco, an associate professor at the University of Leicester.
The study involved a combination of genetic and imaging tests, including echocardiograms, CT scans and MRIs of the aorta.
"All of these tests could easily be adopted as simple and quick routine screening tools to identify relatives of patients at risk for aortic diseases," said Gavin Murphy, a professor of cardiac surgery at the University of Leicester. "Now that we have a better idea of the percentage of relatives of people with aortic diseases who are also likely to suffer with the condition we can start to ascertain the financial viability of introducing routine screening for this at risk group."