Innovation to improve outcomes for TIA and cardiac rehabilitation patients

NARI has won a Heart Foundation Vanguard Grant to undertake further research into improving the care of Australians who have suffered transient ischemic attacks and minor strokes, a group who often do not receive rehabilitation despite being at risk of further attacks.

The grant will build on NARI’s previous research which showed that treatment after hospital is usually limited to medical risk factor management, such as controlling blood pressure, with no co-ordinated approach to lifestyle modification or post-stroke education.

Dr Frances Batchelor, Director of Clinical Gerontology, said: “In Australia, a stroke occurs every 9 minutes with 90% of cases due to risks that could have been prevented. The prevalence of TIA before a stroke has been reported up to 40% with a 10% risk of stroke within a week, and 18% risk of stroke within three months.”

“What our research has also shown is that despite the appearance of neurological recovery, people with transient ischemic attacks and minor strokes perform significantly below age and gender matched controls on nearly all measures of balance and gait,” she said.

In contrast, people who have had a heart attack are offered cardiac rehabilitation which involves education about risk factors and lifestyle modification as well as a physical activity program. However, according to Dr Batchelor, the physical activity does not generally include assessing for balance and gait impairment.

“The Heart Foundation grant will also allow us to look at the prevalence of balance and gait dysfunction in those receiving cardiac rehabilitation, which is unknown at this point in time. We will also be able to test whether targeted exercises, in addition to standard cardiac rehabilitation, can improve balance and walking in people with TIA and minor stroke as well as those already receiving cardiac rehabilitation”

NARI is currently completing a scoping study with St Vincent’s Hospital which is considering the feasibility, acceptability and safety of incorporating TIA patients into cardiac rehabilitation.