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Preventing Disabling Stroke from Atrial Fibrillation

Heart Research Institute & University of Sydney

  • Cardiovascular Senior Researcher Grant
Date Funded:
  • 1 February, 2022
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Professor Ben Freedman

Project Summary

Preventing Disabling Stroke from Unknown and Undertreated Atrial Fibrillation by ECG Screening in General Practice, Engaging Patients, and Increasing Treatment Persistence.

The main researcher for this project is Professor Ben Freedman.

What is the issue for NSW?

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a very common abnormal heart rhythm causing an irregular heartbeat, with a 25% lifetime risk of developing AF above the age of 40. It is responsible for about 1 in 3 strokes, usually more severe than other causes.  However, “blood thinning” tablets (anticoagulants) can prevent 64% of AF-strokes. Unfortunately, AF often produces no symptoms: 1 in 10 people with a stroke are unaware they have AF at the time of stroke, so we need to find AF early to prevent strokes. About 20% of strokes occur in people with known AF who are not taking anticoagulants, either because they were not prescribed, or because patients have stopped taking the drug (non-persistence with therapy).

What does the research aim to do and how?

Our research in general practices will find out if AF screening in people aged over 70 using ECG prevents stroke without excess side effects and represents good value-for-money. By doing this in the world’s largest randomised trial, we will provide convincing evidence that will influence guidelines for AF treatment, and health policy in Australia and overseas. We will also develop novel techniques to engage general practices, general practitioners and their patients in screening for AF before stroke, and to encourage appropriate treatment initiation and persistence with effective therapy for stroke prevention. Our overall aim is to prevent disabling stroke from AF.