Research and innovation

Treatment for heart disease has advanced rapidly in recent decades based on high-quality scientific evidence. This is underpinned by an extensive programme of research nationally and internationally, both basic science and translational. This evidence, substantially in the form of randomised controlled trials, has enabled the publication of high-quality guidelines from NICE, the European Society of Cardiology and other national and international professional groups. Cardiology is very much an ‘evidence-based medicine’ specialty.

Cardiology is also an area of medicine with a rapid rate of innovation in the use of device-based therapies. Pacemakers, coronary stents and implantable defibrillators are notable past successes. More recently ablation procedures for cardiac arrhythmias and percutaneous options for valve disease (eg transcutaneous aortic valve implants) are radically altering the therapeutic landscape, particularly as we increasingly care for an ageing population with multiple comorbidities. This is addressed through trials specifically focusing on older patients, eg use of beta blockers in heart failure (SENIORS trial) or management of hypertension (HYVET trial).

The majority of trainees in cardiology undertake a period of research leading to a higher degree as part of their training.

Major sponsors of research in the UK include the British Heart Foundation, the Medical Research Council and industry.

Academic cardiology operates mainly in university-linked teaching hospitals and all the Academic Health Sciences Centres (AHSCs). Consultants with both clinical and academic commitments are common in these establishments.