More than 2,000 patients will require specialised treatment in the next five years, and 4,000 in the next 10 years.
Emirati researcher outlines the coming crunch
Results from a study conducted by an Emirati student at the University of Toronto have shown the need for specialised congenital heart disease clinics.
The study reviewed more than 29,000 echocardiogram reports from seven UAE hospitals between 2005 and 2009, and identified 5,449 cases of congenital heart disease.
"Until that point, there was no published data and few hospitals were keeping records electronically," said Dr Ghadeera Almansoori, author of the study and a cardiologist specialising in congenital heart disease at the university. "So gathering the information required the manual revision of paperwork."
The study revealed that more than 2,000 new patients would require specialised adult treatment over the next five years, and 4,000 new patients would require such treatment over the next 10 years. The results also showed that there was no formal transition of care between paediatric and adult treatment, as many patients are lost in between.
"The general age of transition seems to be 12 years old. However, this is not formalised and each hospital would give me a different answer," she said.
"This is quite alarming. Many people are not fully aware of their condition. Some do not even know the kind of treatment or surgery they have received as a child, and many assume that once they have surgery they are cured, when in fact they are not and will need follow-up treatment for the rest of their lives."
The seven UAE hospitals in the study were Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Zayed Military Hospital and Al Mafraq Hospital in Abu Dhabi; Tawam Hospital and Al Ain Hospital in Al Ain; Dubai Hospital; and Al Qassimi Hospital in Sharjah.
The second phase of the study will look at comparative figures between the UAE and other countries, Dr Almansoori said, however initial results show some variances between the UAE and the West.
"In North America, the disease is more predominant in the older age group, while in the UAE most of the cases we found are in the younger group," she said. That is because diagnoses of the disease have been done for fewer years in the UAE, and it tends to be caught during the patient's early years.
"While this is concerning, it also means that we still have an opportunity to develop the field and provide these patients with the specialised care and follow-up they will need when they grow up."