Finding Atrial Fibrillation in Stroke Patients

New device helps doctors detect abnormal heart rhythm

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FRIDAY, May 21, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A new device called an event-loop recording (ELR) can help doctors diagnose abnormal heart rhythms called atrial fibrillation in stroke patients.

That news comes in a Swiss study in May 20 online issue of Stroke.

The study of 149 stroke patients found that ELR detected atrial fibrillation in about 6 percent of the patients after two standard tests failed to detect the potentially deadly problem.

A stroke patient wears the ELR, which monitors the patient's heartbeat for seven days. Irregular heartbeats trigger the ELR to record and store the information. Doctors use computers to analyze the ELR's stored data.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) occurs when the heart's two upper chambers quiver, instead of beating normally. This results in blood pooling, which increases the risk of a blood clot. If a clot travels to the brain, it can block a blood vessel and cause an ischemic stroke.

"It is important to find everyone with AF, because they are at high risk of a second stroke and anti-clotting drugs can dramatically reduce that risk," project leader Dr. Roman Sztajzel said in a statement.

He and his colleagues say ELR should not replace either of the two standard tests -- electrocardiogram and Holter -- used to detect atrial fibrillation. But ELR should be considered for every patient in which doctors suspect a stroke is caused by a circulating blood clot, the researchers say.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about atrial fibrillation.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, May 20, 2004

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