A helping hand for patients with an irregular heart beat

Stroke Foundation has welcomed a Federal Government decision to expand the availability of a procedure to treat an irregular heartbeat and reduce stroke risk.

Australian Health Minister the Hon Greg Hunt MP announced cardiac ablation catheters, which treat atrial fibrillation (AF) or an irregular heart-beat, have been listed on the Government’s Protheses List.

The listing means private health insurers must include the procedure in their cover and waiting times for the procedure may be reduced.

Stroke Foundation Clinical Council Member Associate Professor Tim Kleinig said AF was a key risk factor for stroke with around 460,000 Australians estimated to be living with condition.

“People with AF are five to seven times more likely to experience a stroke and frighteningly, the strokes caused by AF are more commonly severe or fatal than those caused by other conditions,” A/Prof Kleinig said.

“Detecting, treating and managing this dangerous condition is vital to a patient’s health.”

The cardiac ablation catheter procedure includes placing a long thin tube into a vein and pushing it up to the heart. Once there, it scars the specific area responsible for the abnormal electrical impulses and restores normal heart rhythm.

A/Prof Kleinig added it was important for anyone who thinks they may have AF to make an appointment with their doctor and have a health check.

“Around 100,000 Australians are estimated to be living with undiagnosed AF. Stroke is the most devastating consequence, but can occur without warning,” he said.

“Symptoms can include an irregular pulse, palpitations, tiredness, weakness and dizziness, and our risk of the condition increases with age. If you feel your own pulse at your wrist, and it’s not ticking like a clock, you may have AF and should see your GP promptly.

“There are a number of treatments available for AF, depending on the severity of the condition, which are highly effective at treating symptoms and reducing stroke risk.”

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