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EMBRACE study takes aim at preventing strokes

December 26, 2011

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Someone dies or is disabled by stroke every 10 minutes in Canada, but Dr. David Gladstone, director of the Regional Stroke Prevention Clinic at Sunnybrook, wants to help reduce these numbers.

The EMBRACE study is currently underway to test an advanced cardiac monitoring system, and aims to improve detection of atrial fibrillation, which is a major risk factor for stroke.

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular beating of the upper chambers of the heart, which can lead to blood clot formation and severe strokes. While some people may have symptoms like heart palpitations, dizziness or chest pains, many do not have any symptoms of atrial fibrillation. The risk for developing the condition increases with age — it affects one in 10 people over the age of 80.

This groundbreaking study aims to be the first randomized trial to test a newly developed cardiac monitoring belt for stroke patients. A dry-electrode chest strap monitors heart rhythm for 30 days. Nearly 500 patients in 18 hospitals across Canada have enrolled in the study to date. Early results are anticipated in late 2012.

Improving the early detection of atrial fibrillation is an important step in preventing strokes. "If we find that prolonged heart monitoring results in improved diagnosis and treatment, this approach could become a new standard of care across hospitals worldwide," says Gladstone, who is also assistant professor, division of neurology at the University of Toronto.

Gladstone's research is funded in part by a Clinician-Scientist Award from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, and the EMBRACE trial is being funded by a grant from the Canadian Stroke Network