Planned center aims to improve outcomes for patients with heart disorder

The American Heart Association awarded Stanford researchers $5 million to develop decision-making tools for patients with atrial fibrillation.

Paul Wang

A grant of $5 million was awarded to Stanford University to create a center focused on developing tools to help patients with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat, make what are often difficult decisions about their treatment plans.

Stanford was one of six universities awarded a total of $28 million by the American Heart Association to build collaborative research centers focused on improving outcomes for patients with this condition, which increases the risk of stroke.

An estimated 6.1 million or more Americans were living with atrial fibrillation as of 2010, making it the most common heart rhythm abnormality in the United States. That number is expected to rise to 12.1 million by 2030, according to the American Heart Association.

Patients must often decide whether to take physician-recommended anticoagulant drugs regularly to help prevent stroke. The decision is complicated by the different advantages and disadvantages of the many blood-clot-preventing drugs that are available. Excessive bleeding is a possible side effect of these medications.

“We recognize decision-making is a major problem for these patients,” said Paul Wang, MD, professor of cardiovascular medicine and director of the Stanford Cardiac Arrhythmia Service. “Anticoagulants don’t make you feel better. Patients make a choice between an increased risk of bleeding or preventing a stroke. We are trying to help patients make a choice they won’t regret.”

With funding from the award, the Stanford center will develop a smartphone app, along with other decision-making tools, to help patients better understand their choices. The center will also conduct comparative-effectiveness studies to determine the success and feasibility of these new tools.

The center will be led by Wang and Randall Stafford,  MD, PhD, professor of medicine and director of the Stanford Program on Prevention Outcomes and Practices.



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