Pioneering Initiatives to Identify and Manage Irregular Heart Rhythms

World-leading research and innovation at Edinburgh Napier University on the early detection and appropriate management of the most common abnormal heart rhythm, atrial fibrillation, has had significant impact in the cardiovascular health of patients at a national, European and global level.


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common abnormal heart rhythm, affecting more than more than 2 million people across the UK and 35 million people globally. People with AF are five times more likely to have a stroke and twice as likely to die, compared to those without AF. It is also a challenging condition to diagnose, with almost half of cases showing no symptoms. Taking an oral drug can reduce the risk of stroke by two-thirds, but this is poorly prescribed, and patients can often forget to take, or don’t take, their medication. 


Edinburgh Napier University’s Centre for Cardiovascular Research has undertaken a number of significant, patient-focused, collaborations with the NHS and other global health organisations and providers worldwide, to firstly identify atrial fibrillation, then to support patients globally to access to the right medications and to monitor and manage their condition.

Improving AF Detection and Management through Health Tech

The common abnormal heart rhythm, atrial fibrillation (AF), impacts a number of people worldwide, with 5% of over 65s and 10% to 20% of over 80s affected. People with atrial fibrillation are more likely to have a stroke, and these strokes are more likely to be severely disabling than strokes of other causes.

Taking an oral anticoagulant (OAC) drug is recognised to reduce the risk of stroke by two-thirds, however this is poorly prescribed, and patients can often forget to take their medication. One of the many innovative projects researchers in this specialty at our Centre for Cardiovascular Health have undertaken is the development of an electronic system to help patients take their medication. Our experts have also worked with device manufacturers to support patients to monitor their own heart rhythm from a device at home.

Changing Global Health Policy to Improve Outcomes for Patients Worldwide

With recognition that anticoagulant medicines can significantly reduce the risk of stroke, Edinburgh Napier successfully campaigned to the World Health Organisation (WHO) to get non-vitamin K oral anticoagulant medicines added to WHO’s essential medicines list, allowing people who have been diagnosed with AF to access the drug in over 40 countries.

Our innovative work in this area has changed policy and clinical practice, been evidenced by parliamentary groups, and has led to new training and national initiatives and has been adopted within international guidelines, including the WHO.

At Edinburgh Napier, we have the opportunity to change practice through thinking a little outside-the-box and by collaborating across our incredibly diverse schools to potentially improve heart health and reduce that global burden.
Professor Lis Neubeck, Centre of Cardiothoracic Health

Our Centre for Cardiovascular Health

Edinburgh Napier's Centre for Cardiovascular Health is a multidisciplinary research and education centre committed to improving cardiovascular health across the globe.


Find out more about the Centre here