Hidden heart rhythm problem may underlie some strokes | Science News

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Hidden heart rhythm problem may underlie some strokes

Brain attacks tied to undiagnosed atrial fibrillation in two clinical studies

5:00pm, June 25, 2014

Monitoring stroke patients’ heartbeats after they leave the hospital reveals that some have atrial fibrillation that was previously undetected, two studies find. Atrial fibrillation, a heartbeat that’s occasionally out of rhythm, is itself a risk factor for stroke, but some people don’t know they have it. Researchers now report that electronic monitors attached to or under the skin can spot the irregularity in people who have had strokes with no apparent trigger, suggesting that this kind of tracking might need to become a standard part of such patients’ care.

Most strokes result when a blood clot lodges in the brain. In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart, or atria, beat erratically and cause a disruption of blood flow that can contribute to clot formation. People diagnosed with atrial fibrillation are sometimes put on prescription blood thinners to limit clotting. While the cause of atrial fibrillation is poorly understood, people who

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