Monday, 24 October 2016

Monash research could save thousands of lives

Dr Sarah Zaman
An Early Career Practitioner Fellowship is enabling MonashHEART interventional cardiologist Dr Sarah Zaman to conduct research that will potentially save thousands of Australians from sudden cardiac death.

Sudden cardiac death is the most common cause of death in Australia—affecting up to 20,000 adults every year. The majority of cases occur in patients with heart disease who’ve had a heart attack.

Dr Zaman is one of the lead researchers on a randomised control trial to determine the best way of selecting which patients should receive a defibrillator to prevent sudden cardiac death.

The project follows on from Dr Zaman’s PhD thesis which pioneered the use of electrophysiology to select patients following a heart attack who benefit from an implantable defibrillator.

 “Our study (the largest medical defibrillator device trial in Australia) recruits patients who have reduced heart function after a heart attack,” said Dr Zaman.
 “We are investigating electrophysiology, which analyses electrical activity in the heart, as it can determine if a life-threatening arrhythmia can be stimulated in patients who have a scar in their heart following a heart attack.”

“We can test patients by inserting a catheter into the heart and stimulating it,” said Dr Zaman.  “If we trigger an arrhythmia, we know that patient is potentially at risk of dying suddenly.”

On the clinical trial, patients found to be at-risk are eligible to receive a defibrillator, a medical device implanted under the skin that delivers an electric current to the heart when triggered by an arrhythmia.

Dr Zaman said that currently, patients have to wait at least 40 days to receive a defibrillator based purely on their heart function after a heart attack.

“The problem is that the risk of sudden cardiac death is much higher in the first 40 days, which is why we’re also trying to determine how we best select patients early.”

“If the results of the trial are positive, it will have a major impact on clinical cardiology guidelines and potentially save a large number of lives.”

Dr Zaman is able to carry out her research thanks to an Early Career Practitioner Fellowship at the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health (SCS).

“The fellowship enables me to have dedicated research time to progress this very large Australian-based trial,” said Dr Zaman.

“As well as this clinical trial, the fellowship allows me to pursue my other research interests including cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in post-heart attack patients and my involvement in the structural heart disease program at MonashHEART.”

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