Study in Birmingham could lead to better detection of people with irregular heart rhythm

Research that we part-fund at the University of Birmingham could better identify people living with undiagnosed abnormal heart rhythm.


Atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF) is a quivering or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications. During atrial fibrillation, the heart’s two upper chambers (the atria) beat chaotically and irregularly — out of coordination with the two lower chambers (the ventricles) of the heart.

An electrocardiogram (ECG) – a test that estimates the electrical movement in the heart – is typically used to screen individuals for AF, however, this is resource-intensive and can be difficult for a few patients.

Now, scientists believe that some patients could be tried for AF through basic blood tests.

Researchers have recently recognized that patients are more in danger of AF if they have three ‘clinical risks’ – they are older aged, male and have a high Body Mass Index.

These patients, state the analysts at Birmingham, could be screened for AF by testing their blood to check whether they have raised dimensions of two substances – a hormone discharged from the heart called brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) and another protein called fibroblast development factor-23 (FGF-23).

The exploration was completed by researchers from the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences at the University of Birmingham’s College of Medical and Dental Sciences and has been distributed in European Heart Journal.

In this study, the scientists simultaneously analyzed 40 common blood chemicals in 638 people. The scientists combined traditional statistical analyses with innovative machine learning techniques in order to identify new predictors of AF.

Dr. Winnie Chua, one of the lead researchers on the project said: “People with AF are much more likely to develop blood clots and suffer from strokes. To avoid strokes it is important for them to take anticoagulant drugs to prevent blood clotting. However, AF is often only diagnosed after a patient has suffered a stroke.

“Therefore it is important that patients at risk are screened so that they can begin taking anticoagulants to prevent potentially life-threatening complications.”

Scientists are further planning to understand health outcomes and improve the prevention and treatment of AF.

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