Trial signals improvement in preventing deaths related to common heart problem

Doctors in Melbourne have found a treatment that could prevent premature deaths in patients with a common heart problem.

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Atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeats, affects about 800,000 mainly elderly Australians and can lead to fatal strokes.

A new study carried out by the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research in Melbourne has found that there was a significant improvement in patients when hospital care was replaced with out-of-home care.

Professor Walter Abhayaratna is one of the investigators of the SAFETY intervention.

He said as part of the trial, patients suffering from the illness were monitored once they were discharged.

It involved nurses visiting the patients at home, liaising with their GP and monitoring their blood pressure, heart rate and diet over some months.

“What that coordinated program did within our study was to reduce the number of deaths,鈥?Professor Abhayaratna said.

鈥淟et’s say we had a 100 people hospitalised with atrial fibrillation, over the period of time it would result in 7 in those 100 being alive, that we would not be able to keep alive.鈥?br />

“It also resulted in a lower number of hospitalisations, such that we could probably result in a 1000 fewer days of hospital stays, for 100 patients.鈥?br />

Professor Abhayaratna said the home care provided a better environment of care than a hospital would for these patients.

He said although patients are asked to routinely visit their doctor once discharged for monitoring, it isn’t as effective in reducing health risks.

“As you know, GPs are pretty busy, and some patients may not get the opportunity to see their GP within the first week (of discharge).

鈥淕Ps also don’t have the time to visit patients at home for instance, where they can see them in their own environment.

鈥淎nd what we found from the nurses鈥?perspective, is that geez, you found a lot of extra information by visiting a patients home.

“It’s almost like a process of informing them through health literacy and getting them empowered to take control of their condition. In the hospital environment, it’s not always the best for that message” he added.