$450,000 boost to lifesaving heart research at Westmead Hospital

A/Prof Saurabh Kumar is leading a study examining the best treatment for patients with potentially fatal heart rhythm abnormalities.

Patients with potentially fatal heart issues have been handed a $450,000 lifeline for a revolutionary study at Westmead Hospital.

Associate Professor Saurabh Kumar was awarded the prestigious grant by the NSW Health Office of Health and Medical Research for his world-first clinical trial in patients at risk of cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death.

The trial will investigate if patients with fatal or near-fatal heart rhythm disturbances (called ventricular arrhythmias) are best managed with a minimally-invasive ‘keyhole’ procedure called an ablation, or with standard care which involves medical therapy alone.

A/Prof Kumar said the grant will allow the important randomised trial to run at full capacity.

A/Prof Saurabh Kumar

“This is the first trial of its kind anywhere in the world. It is likely to be policy and practice changing for the management of patients with fatal or near fatal heart rhythm disorders,” A/Prof Kumar said.

“It is hoped that this will be a landmark trial in patients who suffer from serious heart rhythm disorders. It has the potential to alleviate much human suffering, improve the quality of life of many patients and save lives in the process. It will also increase efficiency within the health system in managing patients with these conditions.”

A/Prof Kumar is an electrophysiologist or “electrician of the heart” and has been program director for ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death at Westmead Hospital for three years.

Some of his other research projects include investigating whether commercially-available technology such as smart watches can provide a faster diagnosis of some heart rhythm disorders, use of ultrasound technology and MRI in patients with heart rhythm disorders, and other clinical trials.

This study will examine whether ablation may be curative for fatal heart rhythm disorders. Ablation is a procedure where tiny electrical wires are navigated through the heart to identify and ‘cauterise’ short circuits that lead to these rhythm disturbances.

The Westmead Health Precinct is one of the largest health, education, research and training precincts in Australia. More than $3 billion has been committed by government, universities and the private sector to upgrade and expand the precinct’s health services, education and medical research facilities over the coming years, including a new central acute services building.