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Dean of Sydney Nursing School Donna Waters, Dr Lis Neubeck and professor Robyn Gallagher.

Stroke prevention research wins grant

Sydney Nursing School researchers have been awarded a $200,000 grant at the NSW Cardiovascular Research Network State of the Heart Showcase and Awards ceremony.

The funding will allow the University of Sydney team to further research stroke prevention through early detection of atrial fibrillation, via technologies such as smartphones.

Research lead Dr Lis Neubeck said the work focuses on diagnosing atrial fibrillation – an irregular heart rhythm that can cause blood clots to form in the heart and travel to the brain.

“It’s been shown that strokes can be prevented through early identification of atrial fibrillation (AF) and up to two-thirds of people with AF don’t know they have it," Neubeck said. “We need a way to find people who have asymptomatic AF before they get a stroke, since treatments with blood-thinning medications are very effective in preventing strokes.”

She said the simplest way of testing for atrial fibrillation was a pulse check, but added it is not a very sensitive method. “As an alternative, we’ve been investigating an electrocardiogram (ECG) device that attaches to a smartphone," she explained. "In just 30 seconds, the hand-held device can check the ECG and tell if the rhythm is likely to be atrial fibrillation.”

The research team previously showed how community pharmacists and practice nurses could use the device to screen for atrial fibrillation. They will now turn their attention to the translation of this research into real-world practice.

Neubeck added that international guidelines suggest everyone over 65 should have a check-up to see if they have AF, as their risk is higher.

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