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30th January 2020 Atrial Fibrillation

New heart research set to save lives

professor Prashanthan Sanders

How well do you know your own pulse?

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a condition affecting the heart, making it beat out of rhythm. While it may not yet have a high profile across the world, it was estimated in 2010 that this condition affected 33.5million patients worldwide and is on the rise. In fact, a third of strokes occur because of underlying AF. Thanks to your support, research at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) is set to change this.

Meet Professor Prashanthan (Prash) Sanders. An international authority in heart rhythm disorders, Prof Sanders is a clinician-scientist at the RAH and the University of Adelaide. His work has been responsible for ensuring risk factors of AF are managed as part of routine patient care. These common risk factors include high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, sleep apnoea, physical inactivity and diabetes.

“Our work has changed the three standard pillars of AF care to four: stroke prevention, heart rate control, rhythm control and now risk-factor treatment,” Prof Sanders explained.

“By treating risk factors, you can actually get rid of this condition.”

Prof Sanders and his team recently secured funding to develop and implement a specialised and multi-disciplinary clinic at the RAH that has an integrated care (i-CARE) approach for the management of AF. The i-CARE clinic will combine the important care components for AF and ensure collaboration between specialists, nurses and allied professionals all while maintaining a patient-centred approach to treatment.

“We believe our clinic, enabled by this new grant, will reduce hospitalisation and mortality in patients with AF,” Prof Sanders said.

Contributing to this new project has been another successful clinic-based study with the help of PhD student Melissa Middeldorp who is passionate about research that has a direct impact on patients’ symptoms and lives.

This project has been evaluating how a weight and risk factor management program can be integrated into the standard of care in the management of AF. It has also examined the effect of weight loss on AF following ablation (a current surgical procedure used to treat AF). With additional funding, this project can expand to help more people and publish further results that are forming part of new treatment guidelines.

“So many of the risk factors stem from obesity and lead to AF. Our research has involved setting up a dedicated clinic and working one-on-one with patients to develop a healthy lifestyle, addressing all contributing factors individually and personally with each patient,” Melissa said.

“We found that weight reduction and risk factor management meant that patients had much better outcomes following ablation. In fact, for some patients they were able to eliminate their symptoms and didn’t require a procedure at all.

“More funding for projects such as these will enable us to take these trials to a larger scale, meaning we can implement our findings into patient care sooner and save more lives.”