An insertable heart monitor the size of a paper clip is promising to provide much needed answers for more Australian stroke survivors and prevent future stroke.
Insertable heart monitors have now been listed on the Medical Benefits Schedule (MBS) improving access to the potentially life-saving device.
Stroke Foundation Clinical Council Member Associate Professor Tim Kleinig said the technology would help survivors find the cause of their stroke and therefore lead to prevention of recurrent stroke.
“There will be an estimated 56,000 strokes in Australia this year and the cause of around 15,000 strokes will go unexplained,’’ A/Professor Kleinig said.
“Of those who survive a stroke, almost half will go on to experience another stroke within 10 years so anything we can to help survivors find the cause of their stroke and manage it is potentially a life-saver.”
The device assists physicians in diagnosing an irregular heartbeat or atrial fibrillation (AF). The condition is notoriously difficult to diagnose at it often has no symptoms and may occur intermittently and infrequently. The only previously available suitable technology was an externally worn device which was mostly only able to detect abnormal rhythms for 24 hours.
A/Prof Kleinig said 100,000 Australians were estimated to be living with undiagnosed AF and stroke is the most serious consequences of the condition.
“Patients with AF are five times more likely to have a stroke than those in the general community. Further, the strokes caused by AF are more commonly severe or fatal than other ischaemic stroke subgroups, so detecting and treating this dangerous condition is vital to their health,” A/Prof Kleinig said.
“This continuous, long-term heart monitoring device, automatically and continuously detects and records abnormal heart rhythms for up to three years.
“If AF is detected as a cause of the stroke then different treatment is required, to better prevent clots forming in the heart and travelling up arteries into the brain. As a result, this device helps us detect and manage a patient’s condition to reduce their risk of a subsequent stroke.”
A stroke strikes our most vital organ – the brain. It occurs when blood supply to the brain is cut off due to a blood clot blocking an artery or a burst artery. Stroke is one of Australia’s biggest killers, a leading cause of disability and can turn lives upside down in an instant.
Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sharon McGowan welcomed improved access to the device saying it was vital the latest innovations in stroke treatment were translated into clinical practice.
“Tragically, it’s estimated there will be one stroke every nine minutes across the country in 2018. Too many Australians are dying or being left with an ongoing disability as a result of stroke,’’ she said.
“Stroke is largely preventable and treatable. Innovations in stroke treatment are coming all the time, we must ensure all Australians have access to it.”
Support of the technology in is in line with the 2017 Stroke Foundation Clinical Guidelines for Stroke Management.