Skip to main content

Our objective

Our main research activities are to determine how best to screen for atrial fibrillation (AF) at scale, to prevent as many strokes as possible. We trialled this in pharmacies, showing we could detect silent and unrecognised AF in 15 out of 1,000 people screened, by using novel technology – a miniature ECG machine that attaches to the back of a smartphone – to obtain an initial diagnosis in 30 seconds.

We also ran some pilot studies in general practice, showing that practice nurses are ideally placed to screen older patients coming to see the doctor.

Our impact

AF is the most common abnormal heart rhythm – it has been estimated that if a person reaches the age of 40, there is a one in four lifetime risk of developing AF.

AF disturbs the flow of blood inside the heart, leading to formation of clots that can break off and travel to the brain, blocking brain arteries and causing severe strokes. AF is responsible for one third of all strokes and is largely preventable by anticoagulant medications, which stop the clots from forming inside the heart in AF.

Unfortunately, AF is frequently ‘silent’, especially in older people who are at greater risk of stroke, and the first sign of AF is a severe stroke.

If screening for AF could be implemented widely in those aged 65 or older, and this could be coupled with greater prescription of anticoagulant therapy as advised in guidelines, then thousands of strokes could be avoided, not only in Australia but globally.

Projects

Collaboration with researchers in Oklahoma (USA) to screen for atrial fibrillation in tribal Indian Clinics

Collaboration with researchers in Toyama (Japan) to investigate the incremental yield of annual screening

Collaboration with researchers in Shanghai to screen for atrial fibrillation

Collaboration with Hamburg and Gutenberg Heart studies (Germany) on screening for atrial fibrillation

Collaboration with researchers in Frankfurt Germany about epidemiology of atrial fibrillation

Collaboration with researchers in Royal Melbourne Hospital to detect atrial fibrillation post stroke in Australia, Hong Kong and China (SPOT-AF)

Collaboration with researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong to screen for atrial fibrillation

Patient self-screening using a smartphone ECG to identify recurrence of postoperative atrial fibrillation after non-cardiac surgery and medical admissions in Concord Hospital, Royal Perth Hospital, and Gosford Hospital

Collaboration with the Poche Centre to screen for atrial fibrillation in Aboriginal Australians in remote and rural NSW, NT, and WA

Patient self-screening for atrial fibrillation in general practice using screening stations

Atrial Fibrillation Screening, Management, and Guideline-Recommended Therapy (AF-SMART) studies