A study, sponsored by St. Jude Medical, has demonstrated the efficacy of pacemaker-based diagnostics in predicting hypertensive patients with a higher risk of stroke.

The trial conducted by the Population Health Research Institute of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences in Hamilton, Canada, included 2,580 pacemaker and ICD patients over the age of 65.

The ASymptomatic AF and Stroke Evaluation in Pacemaker Patients and the AF Reduction Atrial Pacing Trial (Assert) is designed to determine whether the detection of arrhythmias using pacemaker-based diagnostics diagnoses an increased risk of stroke in elderly, with hypertension and no history of atrial fibrillation (AF).

Earlier study results presented at an American Heart Association Scientific Sessions meeting reported that pacemaker patients who have no history of atrial tachycardia (AT) or AF, but do have device-detected arrhythmias, are approximately 2.5 times more likely to have a stroke than patients who do not have device-detected arrhythmias.

Principal investigator for the arrhythmias programme Jeff Healey said the stroke monitoring technology is a built-in diagnostic tool and will further assist physicians in properly treating their patients. "Approximately 85% of atrial arrhythmias documented in the study were picked up only by the pacemaker, proving the device plays a very significant role in identifying patients with a higher risk of stroke," he said.

St. Jude Medical Cardiac Rhythm Management Division research and clinical affairs senior vice president Mark Carlson added that diagnostic tools and remote monitoring capabilities found in the company’s pacemakers and ICDs make it easier for physicians to capture information to manage AT and AF even when the arrhythmias are not accompanied by symptoms. "St. Jude Medical is committed to providing our customers with clinically relevant information that allows them to deliver more timely and effective care to patients around the world," he said.

Atrial fibrillation is a chaotic, uncontrolled heart rhythm and occurs when the upper chambers of the heart (atria) contract rapidly and irregularly – from 350 to 600 times a minute compared to a normal heart rhythm of 60 to 100.

St. Jude Medical, a global medical device company, develops technology and services for treating cardiac, neurological and chronic pain patients worldwide.