Reducing risk of stroke and heart problems after surgery

Researchers from the University of Sydney and Westmead Hospital have been awarded $1.8 million to advance research into reducing the risk of stroke and heart complications in patients undergoing major surgery.

Many Australians have major surgery each year, with approximately three percent developing atrial fibrillation (AF), an irregular and often very rapid heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots and increase the risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.

Current research shows that anticoagulation, more commonly known as blood thinners, can reduce stroke risk in people with established AF.

Professor Clara Chow

Professor Clara Chow

The research team, led by Professor Clara Chow, will explore the development of AF following major surgery and determine whether blood thinners will improve health outcomes and decrease the risk of stroke.

The research is funded through the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

“We know that these medications can reduce stroke risk in people with established AF but it is unclear whether AF brought on by surgery can be treated in the same way,” said Professor Chow, Academic Director of the Westmead Applied Research Centre in the Faculty of Medicine and Health, Academic Co-Director of the Charles Perkins Centre at Westmead and Clinical Lead Community Based Cardiac Services at Westmead Hospital.

“This research is likely to have a direct impact on clinical guidelines and how we treat patients in the future.

“We are pleased to be partnering with collaborators in Canada and Demark on this international study.”

“This research will help to improve and advance patient care for the many Australians having major surgery each year,” said Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt.

“We continue to invest in Australia’s best and brightest researchers, translating ideas and projects into new medicines, treatments and policies of the future.

“It will help to save lives and to protect lives.”

Professor Robyn Ward, Executive Dean and Pro Vice-Chancellor Medicine and Health said: “We are very proud of the calibre of our cardiovascular research at the University of Sydney. Projects like this are leading the way in improving health outcomes for Australians.”

The $20 billion MRFF is a long-term, sustainable investment in Australian health and medical research, helping to improve lives, build the economy and contribute to the sustainability of the health system, which ensures a guaranteed funding stream to support Australia’s best and brightest health researchers.


Declaration: The study in Australia is subject to ethics and regulatory approval.

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