Date Published: 25 September 2006

Relaxation good for the heart - NZ Research

Health News from New Zealand.

Researchers at The University of Auckland have found that monitoring the relaxation capacity of the heart is vital in predicting future problems in heart patients.

The international study shows that damage to the relaxation capacity of the heart muscle, and therefore the amount of blood filling the heart, is as important as the contraction of the heart muscle, the usual method of prognosis. This relaxation of the heart can be used to determine the probability of further cardiac problems and associated death in heart attack and heart failure patients.

About 30% of diagnosed heart failure patients die within one year, and 50% within four years,”said Dr Gillian Whalley of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.

The visible damage to the cardiac muscle and the volume of blood pumped with each heart beat are normally used to determine the severity of the problem. Our research shows that the relaxation and filling of the heart is as important as the contraction ? the pump has to be filled properly before it can pump effectively.?

The Meta-analysis Research Group in Echocardiography (MeRGE) study, coordinated by the University's Cardiovascular Research Laboratory, analysed ultrasound measurements of the hearts of more than 7000 patients in 15 countries diagnosed with heart failure or who had suffered heart attacks. The first results from this collaboration were recently presented at the World Congress of Cardiology.

This study has been a great testament to the global reputation of the University and New Zealand research,”continued Dr Rob Doughty.

Most studies of this type look at only a few hundred people, and it is only through this ground-breaking collaboration with our international colleagues that we have managed to build a sufficient data resource to make this discovery.?

The group's research interest will soon turn to three-dimensional imaging of heart function with the recent installation of a state-of-the-art, real time, three-dimensional ultrasound machine, facilitated by a research partnership with Philips Medical Systems.

The MeRGE study was funded through The University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor's University Development Fund and grants from the Heart Foundation of New Zealand.

Source: Auckland University, New Zealand.

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