Italian heart scheme seeks 'fit'

Fri, 05/23/2008 - 04:43

An Italian medical scheme led by one of the world's top heart specialists aims to get to the bottom of puzzling anomalies and get ''the right fit'' for every patient.

''We'll be looking at all cases that deviate from the norm,'' said Attilio Maseri, 73, former consultant to Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II who is leaving Milan's prestigious San Raffaele clinic after 40 years to lead the multi-year survey.

Maseri said he and his 5,000 colleagues in the Italian Hospital Heart Doctors' Association (ANMCO) were puzzled by patients who had to have heart transplants after initially minor problems - when others made full recoveries after major heart attacks.

''What patron saint did the latter have? he asked.

In the For Your Heart survey, ANMCO would also be trying to find the reasons ''why some people with all the risk factors don't develop heart disease and others with hardly any factors become full-blown cases''.

''Then you have people with major heart conditions who hardly ever have to use their defibrillators, and others with tiny flutters whose buzzers are going off all the time''.

What the scheme was aiming to achieve, Maseri said, was a clinical picture of the ''biodiversity'' of each patient.

''There's a lot of talk about biodiversity in plants, animals and habitats. It's time we started talking about it when it comes to patients.

''Every sick person is entitled to personalised treatment that gauges his biodiversity, that is his response to diseases and therapy, his vulnerability, and his 'guardian angels'.

''No one should settle for a one-size-fits-all approach. We have to get the right fit''.

Olympic medal-winning swimmer Domenico Fioravanti, who had to give up the sport because of an extremely rare congenital heart defect, is one of the sponsors of the scheme.

''It's been four years since I had to quit and I'm still not 100% certain that it was totally necessary,'' said Fioravanti, who was a medal tip for the 2004 Olympics when he got the bad news.

''That's why I'm right behind the For Your Heart scheme. Some day, perhaps, we'll find out that they saved my life by stopping me - or that my rare abnormality isn't, in fact, an insurmountable hurdle for achieving results at high-level sport''.