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Gulf SAFE Launches Implementation Phase

A meeting was held yesterday to launch the implementation phase of the first Gulf ‘Survey of Atrial Fibrillation Events’, also known as GULF SAFE, an initiative set-up by the Gulf Heart Association (GHA) in partnership with Sanofi-aventis Gulf  to understand, manage, and establish the approximate prevalence of the cardiac disease in the region.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm. It involves the fibrillating or quivering of the heart muscles, instead of coordinated contractions.

The meeting at the InterContinental Hotel Festival City comes off the back of the recently concluded pilot phase, which was launched in May 2009 with the help and participation of five GCC countries, with the addition of Yemen. A number of top cardiologists and doctors from emergency departments across the GCC met yesterday to discuss the success of the pilot, which involved entering the records of 2,000 patients into a web database to create the necessary base-line data used for all future follow-ups.

“The pilot phase means that the base foundation of the survey has been set. We have never had any figures on the prevalence of this condition in this region, and now we have our foot in the door. The pilot phase served to check the readiness of more than 20 hospitals in 5 GCC countries plus Yemen to conduct the survey,” said Professor Mohammed Zubaid, Head of Cardiology Division, Mubarak Al Kabeer Hospital; Professor of Medicine, Kuwait University; and Principal Investigator of Gulf SAFE.

The next phase of GULF SAFE, started in November 2009 and will run to June 2010, is considered to be the implementation phase, in which findings taken from the pilot course and established during yesterday’s meeting will be put into action. Highly-regulated attendance procedures will ensure that all AF patients visiting the participating hospitals will be included in the electronic data base and will be followed up consistently throughout the course.

“Atrial fibrillation is usually asymptomatic and known to be one of the leading misdiagnosed cardiac conditions worldwide. We are very happy with the success of the pilot phase. We know that the disease incidence is high, but now with the distribution of our disease registry software across hospitals in the region, we will have an idea of the true burden of the disease in each country.” said Dr. Wael Almahmeed, Head of Emirates Cardiac Society and Head of Cardiology Department, Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Abu Dhabi, UAE.

AF may result in palpitations, fainting, chest pain or congestive heart failure. People with AF usually have a significantly increased risk of stroke (up to 7 times that of the general population). The risk of developing AF increases with age, accounting for approximately 8% of people over the age of 80 years.

“Gulf SAFE is the first ever multinational registry of this common arrhythmia in the Middle East. It will help us understand the characteristics of patients with this condition in our region, how they are treated, and their outcomes. In doing so, we can identify areas that need improvement, and plan future research.” explained Dr. Alawi Alsheikh-Ali, Consultant Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist, Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Abu Dhabi, UAE.

AF can be diagnosed either by taking a pulse and observing that the heartbeats don’t occur at regular intervals, or by conducting an electrocardiogram (ECG) which will indicate the absence of ‘P waves’ – waves that are normally present in regular heart beats.

“Sanofi-aventis has established a strategic partnership with the Gulf Heart Association with several previous successes in the field of cardiology, mainly the GULF RACE (Gulf Registry of Acute Coronary Events) and the production of more than five GHA guidelines for different indications in the cardiology practice,” concluded Dr. Hisham Mahmoud, Director Market Access & Medical Affairs, Sanofi-aventis, Gulf.

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