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Patients who suffer painful recurrent chest pain due to the Coronary Slow Flow Phenomenon (CSFP) sadly don’t have any effective therapies currently available.

Patients with CSFP have dysfunctional microscopic blood vessels causing blood to flow slower through their major heart vessels, producing recurring chest pain. The condition is extremely debilitating and has a severe impact on sufferer’s quality of life.

TQEH is internationally renowned for its research studies into the CSFP. Over the past 15 years, TQEH researchers have been evaluating the effectiveness of a number of different drug therapies for CSFP. A drug called mifibradil was an outstanding therapeutic option for CSFP sufferers but unfortunately, it was withdrawn from the market because of drug interactions; thus the search for an effective therapy continues.

A recent project grant awarded by The Hospital Research Foundation will enable Professor John Beltrame, who was instrumental in first characterising CSFP, and his team to investigate a new therapy – this time they are changing direction and looking at exercise therapy.

The concept of exercise therapy was born out of collaboration between the Cardiology and Vascular Surgery Departments at TQEH. The Vascular Surgery team have demonstrated that patients with leg pain due to blocked blood vessels have benefited enormously from exercise therapy.

“Considering exercise as a good therapy for chest pain is not instinctive. We know chest pain can often be caused by physical activity, so to think of it as a potential therapy is counter-intuitive!” explains Professor John Beltrame, Cardiologist and Professor of Medicine at TQEH.

“Fortuitously, a Program Grant awarded by The Hospital Research Foundation 4 years ago brought Professor Robert Fitridge, Head of Vascular Surgery, and I together as collaborators. If it wasn’t for that grant we may not have had the opportunity to put our heads together and develop the exercise therapy concept for CSFP,” said Professor John Beltrame.

Teaming up with expert exercise physiologists at the University of Adelaide, the project team will evaluate the effectiveness of exercise therapy in a group of 56 CSFP patients, both men and women.

Many CSFP patients experience angina (chest pain) episodes several times a week, and Professor Beltrame explains that patients are desperate for some relief, as their quality of life is so poor.

“We are very hopeful that the exercise therapy will be a viable treatment option, but even if the study is negative, it is likely to incite similar studies into related coronary disorders, which have largely ignored exercise therapy,” said Professor Beltrame.

“We are breaking new ground here at TQEH in Adelaide and it’s fantastic that The Hospital Research Foundation is able to assist with getting this project started.

‘”Moreover, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital will continue to be at the forefront of research and therapy for CSFP.”