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Heart monitor implant ‘could prevent hundreds of strokes’

Image credit: Mark Adams - Dreamstime

A public health body has recommended the routine use of implantable heart monitors by the NHS in order to track activity in patients after a stroke of unknown cause.

According to draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the devices could prevent hundreds of strokes in people who have a high risk of suffering more.  

The monitors – which cost £1,800 – can detect atrial fibrillation (AF), a condition which causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate.

The Reveal LINQ monitor, developed by Dublin-based Medtronic, identifies more people have atrial fibrillation after a stroke with no identified cause, or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), commonly known as a 'mini-stroke'.

The device is around a third of the size of a AAA battery and is implanted under the skin in the chest. It also transmits data back to the patient’s doctor via a mobile network.

Meindert Boysen, director of the NICE Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, said: “This is an innovative monitor which has the potential to reduce the number of strokes suffered by those with atrial fibrillation.

“It may mean fewer hospital visits for those with atrial fibrillation; reduce the need for rehabilitation and mean patients are reassured that AF will be detected in a timely manner so treatment can begin.

“This device can provide a level of reassurance to those who live in fear of having another stroke and we believe Reveal LINQ is likely to be a cost-effective use of NHS resources.”

Undiagnosed atrial fibrillation is believed to be responsible for a significant portion of the 30,000 strokes with an unidentified cause - also known as cryptogenic strokes - that occur each year in the UK, NICE said.

Cryptogenic stroke patients have a high risk of recurrent stroke and require a confirmed atrial fibrillation diagnosis to receive therapy to prevent a repeat stroke.

“It is fantastic to see innovative technology being adopted to vastly improve the lives of those with conditions that can be extremely debilitating, particularly patients at risk of having multiple strokes,” said Nicola Blackwood, the minister for innovation.

Data presented to the NICE diagnostics advisory committee showed atrial fibrillation after a cryptogenic stroke was detected in five times more people using a Reveal monitor for six months compared with people who didn’t have the device implanted.

Clinical experts stressed, however, that it is important that non-invasive ECG monitoring is carried out first before Reveal LINQ is considered.

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