Heart and Brain Collaboration

Cardiac diseases associated brain disease and other neuroscience research is the core focus of the Heart and Brain Collaboration founded by Dr Melina Gattellari and Conjoint Associate Professor John Worthington. The group recently completed Australia’s first and one of the world’s largest national population based studies of symptomatic Myasthenia Gravis, which was published in the European Journal of Neurology. Other recent work, published in the journal Stroke and highlighted by the American Heart Association, was a study of long-term relative survival following transient ischaemic or ‘mini-stroke’. The large study, which is part of the groups PRISM study (Programme of Research Informing Stroke Management) comprised over 22,000 Australian cases. The study showed, for the first time, a high long-term mortality following these stroke warnings. At 5 years over 30% had died, a 13.2% decrease in survival compared with people of similar age, and a mortality similar to that reported for acute coronary artery disease. This study was supported by the Clinical Excellence Commission and the UNSW Australia.

The research team is also carrying out two randomised controlled trials, DESPATCH and STOP-STROKE, testing interventions in general practice to improve stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation (AF), the world’s commonest heart rhythm disturbance and a major cause of fatal and disabling stroke. These studies were funded by the NHMRC and BUPA, respectively, and are nearing completion. Another NHMRC funded study is OASIS, a data-linkage study of subarachnoid haemorrhage epidemiology, outcomes and management in Australia. Aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage occurs in relatively young people and is often fatal and disabling, accounting for a large proportion of the Quality of Life Years lost through all forms of stroke, this study is likely to inform clinical care and health service planning for these patients.

The Heart and Brain Collaboration is also involved in two new studies, the HIAC Study (Hydrocephalus in Adults and Children Study) and the CARERA Study (Cerebrovascular AutoRegulation and ReActivity Study). The latter is investigating the prognostic and therapeutic value of new non-invasive computerised bed-side monitoring techniques in critically ill intensive care patients with ischaemic and haemorrhagic brain injury. The CARERA study involves a collaboration of neurosurgeons, intensivists and neurologists, including conjoint Associate Professors Matthias Jaeger, Anders Aneman and John Worthington. CARERA has already attracted a major infrastructure grant from the University of New South Wales.

Group Leader:
A/Professor John Worthington
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