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A national, targeted programme of genetic testing for sudden cardiac death has moved a step closer with

new research suggesting it could be a cost-effective option for reducing mortality from the disease.

Testing patients with a family history of sudden cardiac death would reduce the cost of subsequent treatment by £7,073 per person and slightly improve life expectancy, according to preliminary data from the Government-funded study.

The results have been submitted to the Department of Health and are likely to be discussed by leading cardiologists and other stakeholders this week at a meeting on plans for a national strategy for arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.

Dr Roger Boyle, the Government's heart tsar, is chairing a panel of experts developing a new chapter in the national service framework for coronary heart disease, due to be published in March.

Study author Dr Jenny Taylor, programme director for the Oxford Genetics Know-ledge Park, said: 'Genetic testing for sudden cardiac heart disease is very rarely done and ECGs and ultrasound will miss asymptomatic conditions. As a result the patient may be discharged when still at risk.'

She said GPs should refer family members of those who have died from sudden cardiac disease to be tested for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Professor Mike Kirby, visiting professor of general practice at the University of Hertfordshire and a GP in Letch- worth, said he supported inviting relatives for testing, but said clear guidance was necessary, as many GPs preferred to 'let sleeping dogs lie'.

By Simon Crawshaw

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