This Device Could Predict Strokes

Insertable cardiac monitors could detect atrial fibrillation, a risk factor for stroke

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) After a stroke, getting the right treatment is important to avoid another one. When the cause of the stroke is unknown, doctors must rely on certain tools to determine the best treatment.

One of those tools is an insertable cardiac monitor, or ICM. An ICM is implanted to keep track of the heartbeat. And two recent studies found that ICMs were effective at detecting irregular heartbeats. They were also linked to fewer strokes and improved quality of life.

The first study, which was led by Paul D. Ziegler, MS, of Medtronic in Austin, TX, looked at how often stroke patients had irregular heartbeats and for how long. The second study, led by Alex Diamantopoulos, MSc, of Symmetron Limited in Elstree, UK, looked at past research on the outcomes of stroke patients who received ICMs to detect abnormal heartbeats.

An irregular heartbeat, or atrial fibrillation, often leads to stroke because the abnormal rhythm of the heart allows blood to pool and form clots. Those clots can then cause a stroke by traveling to the brain and cutting off blood flow.

Keeping track of irregular heartbeats is especially important for people who have had cryptogenic strokes — strokes with an unknown cause.

For their study, Dr. Ziegler and team implanted ICMs in more than 1,200 patients who had past strokes with an unknown cause. After 120 days, 9.2 percent of the patients had experienced irregular heartbeats. This was a much higher rate of detection than in patients who had not received ICMs.

Similarly, Diamantopoulos and colleagues found that ICMs detected irregular heartbeats in nine times as many patients as in those without the device.

Dr. Ziegler and team concluded that a significant number of stroke patients had experienced irregular heartbeats — which could put them at risk for future strokes — detected through ICM monitoring.

ICMs were also tied to fewer additional strokes and improved quality of life than in patients who did not receive ICMs, according to Diamantopoulos and team. These researchers concluded that ICMs were “a cost-effective diagnostic tool” that could help doctors detect and prevent more strokes in patients who had had strokes due to unknown causes.

These studies were presented Feb. 11 and 13 at the International Stroke Conference in Nashville, TN. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

Authors on both of these studies had financial ties to companies that made ICMs.

Review Date: 
January 29, 2015
Last Updated:
February 14, 2015