The UK SAFER study of screening for undiagnosed atrial fibrillation in older adults will launch in Australia, in an extension called SAFER-AUS.
The Australia Heart Research Institute’s Professor Ben Freedman, Dr Nicole Lowres and Dr Katrina Giskes have received a significant Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grant that is poised to transform Australia’s stroke-related healthcare.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common abnormal heart rhythm, causing one in three strokes that are often severe and largely preventable. AF prevalence rises with age, affecting about 10 per cent of people aged 70 and over, and increases their stroke risk by five times.
One in 10 people who experienced stroke were unaware they had AF at the time of stroke, as AF can be a silent condition that produces no symptoms. By detecting AF early with more intense electrocardiogram (ECG) screening, combined with treatment with oral anticoagulants, the risk of stroke can be reduced by 64 per cent.
The MRFF grant couldn’t have come at a better time. We will use the funds over the next five years to AF screen 70 year olds and upwards, to provide definitive evidence if more intensive ECG screening prevents stroke, morbidity and death. The results will impact current screening guidelines to prevent stroke and improve stroke-related healthcare.”
– Professor Ben Freedman, Heart Research Institute, Australia
Plans are underway to recruit 36 general practices in three Australian states for randomised testing for AF on a sample of patients aged 70 and over, using a novel Zenicor thumb-ECG device to record heart rhythm four times daily for three weeks. After recruiting a sample of their patients aged 70 or more, practices will be randomised to either the active screening or control arm to avoid bias.
Once a cardiologist diagnoses AF on a screening ECG, patients will be asked to visit their GP practice to discuss care and management.
“This project will be the world’s largest randomised study of AF screening and brings together the brightest minds in the field of atrial fibrillation,” Dr Lowres says. “We are excited by the potential health impact this far-reaching research will have on everyday lives in Australia and the UK.”
The patient trials will be facilitated by the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre at the University of Sydney under the guidance of Professors Anthony Keech and John Simes. In addition to this, HRI is collaborating with multiple partners on this pioneering project in Australia and the UK, including Professor Jonathan Mant, who heads up the SAFER programme in the UK.
Find out more
Heart Research Institute, Australia
See more about SAFER in the UK
Media queries: Lucy Lloyd, Communications, Primary Care Unit
This article appeared first on the Heart Research Institute website.