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Our objective

Our mission is to prevent strokes through early detection of silent atrial fibrillation (AF) and implement appropriate guideline-based management.

With a clinical implementation focus we are exploring novel strategies using eHealth tools to detect unknown silent AF. AF is the most common abnormal heart rhythm – it is estimated that individuals over the age of 40 have a one in four lifetime risk of developing AF. AF is responsible for one third of all strokes, which are largely preventable by anticoagulant medications that stop clots from forming inside the heart. Unfortunately, AF is frequently silent, especially in older people who are at greater risk of stroke, with the first sign of AF being a severe stroke.

Our AF screening research extends through collaborations with primary care and specialist clinics in Australia, the USA, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam, Germany and the UK.

Another major interest of our Group is to determine whether our Indigenous population has a higher burden of AF by screening in remote and rural Australia, in collaboration with the Poche Centre and the University of Auckland, NZ.

Our impact

Our main activities are to determine how best to screen for AF at scale, and to prevent as many strokes as possible. The more people screened and treated, the more strokes we can prevent. We continue global advocacy for screening for AF through the AF-SCREEN International Collaboration. This is likely to change guidelines and influence future government policy and have a global impact on stroke reduction.

The Australian Heart Foundation and Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand 2018 guideline on the management of AF had opportunistic screening for unknown AF as its first recommendation, with a practice point being about use of a handheld ECG pioneered by our Group, quoting our Group’s work in its recommendation.

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 Hanoi (Vietnam) to screen in hospital to detect atrial fibrillation after cardio-thoracic surgery

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 in community centres (AF-CATCH)

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 in cardiac clinics, general practice and the community

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 Indigenous 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

HRI breakthrough for COVID-19 patients

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