Skip to content

Atrial Fibrillation Health Center

Heart Monitoring May Prevent Some Strokes, Study Suggests

Irregular heartbeat that causes some attacks is often tough to detect, doctors say
Font Size
A
A
A

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, June 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- As many as four of every 10 stroke victims leave the hospital without a clue about what caused the stroke, their doctors hamstrung on how to prevent another one from occurring.

"You can imagine how unsettling this is," said Dr. Rod Passman, a professor of cardiology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University. "Stroke is among the most feared events in medicine, and to leave the hospital with no clear cause and no directed therapy will weigh on any patient."

But a pair of new studies has found that equipping patients with continuous heart monitors can root out one potential cause of these mystery strokes, a heart rhythm condition called atrial fibrillation.

Heart monitors either carried around by patients or implanted under their skin were able to detect atrial fibrillation in as many as 30 percent of those who had suffered a stroke of undetermined origin, said Passman, who co-authored the results of one of the clinical trials.

This discovery gave doctors an opportunity to further reduce patients' risk of stroke by placing them on more effective blood-thinning medications, Passman said.

"Finding atrial fibrillation, especially in someone who has already had a stroke, is vitally important," he said. "People with atrial fibrillation have a 500 percent increased chance of stroke, unless they receive proper treatment."

The results of both trials are published in the June 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Atrial fibrillation is an electrical disorder that causes the upper chambers of the heart to contract quickly and irregularly. These herky-jerky contractions allow blood to pool and coagulate in the heart, forming clots that can cause a stroke if they break off and are carried into the brain.

Unfortunately, atrial fibrillation can be intermittent, making it hard for doctors to detect.

"You may not know you have it, and when you come in with your stroke you could be in a normal rhythm," Passman said. "They could watch you for several days and never detect an abnormal rhythm."

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

pacemaker next to xray
Ablation, cardioversion, pacemaker, and more.
human brain
What you need to know.
 
woman doing yoga
Tips for easing stress.
fish and vegetables
Diet guidelines to follow.
 
Omega 3 Overview Slideshow
Slideshow
At Risk for Heart Disease
Video
 
Recognizing Womens Heart Symptoms
FEATURE
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Slideshow
 

Resolved To Quit Smoking
SLIDESHOW
Lowering Blood Pressure Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Heart Disease And Ed
SLIDESHOW
Heart Attack Spit Test
Video
 

WebMD Special Sections