THOUSANDS of Scots are being sought for a trial to find out if heart attack patients over the age of 75 could benefit from treatment more commonly given to younger people.

The British Heart Foundation say little research has been carried out to look at how best to treat older patients despite the fact that 50% of heart attacks happen in patients aged 72 and over.

Many doctors believe older patients are frail, have a lower chance of survival and are more likely to have complications after heart procedures.

However, the British Heart Foundation say this is based on perception rather than evidence-based research.

Currently 86% of older patients (85 and over) who have a heart attack are given medication to treat their condition rather than combined treatment involving medication and a procedure known as a coronary angioplasty, which clears blockages in the heart arteries using a balloon and a metal scaffold, known as a stent.

This is compared to 17% of patients aged 18 to 65 years old, which the BHF say, demonstrates a "huge disparity" in treatments based on age.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is Scotland’s single biggest killer and the leading cause of death worldwide. CHD is responsible for the deaths of nearly 7,000 Scots each year and most of these are caused by a heart attack.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh are part of a clinical trial supported by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which aims to find the most suitable way to treat patients aged 75 and over who have had a heart attack.

The Edinburgh team, led by BHF Professor of Cardiology David Newby, are part of a UK-wide clinical trial, led by researchers at the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University who have been awarded £1.7million from the BHF.

The UK-wide trial, known as SENIOR-RITA, hopes to find 2,300 patients across 40 different hospitals across the UK over a two-year period to take part in the trial.

Professor David Newby said: "There is much debate and conflicting views amongst doctors about how to treat patients over 75 years old who present with a heart attack.

"This is because of the lack of evidence in older patients who may have both benefits and harms from treatments.

"As people are now living longer, it's really important we carry out this research to identify how best to manage our patients to ensure they receive the best care available and enhance their chances of recovery.” 

The clinical trial will look to determine whether patients over the age of 75 will benefit from a coronary angiography and angioplasty after having a minor heart attack.

Patients on the trial will be randomised to have either the procedure alongside medication or receive medication in keeping with the current practice.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said: “This trial marks a landmark study in improving the care of older heart attack patients.

"A heart attack still has the power to devastate a person and their family and we need to keep funding research to find the breakthroughs that will make a difference.”