[Press and Public Relations] University Of Leicester's Pace Setting Study

November 2001

No 179

Research being conducted at the University of Leicester is quite literally pace setting.

Dr Martin Fotherby, Senior Lecturer in the University Department of Medicine is involved in a multi-centre study that will have important implications for the care of older persons who suffer falls.

The research will investigate the use of pacemakers in a condition responsible for falls in elderly people.

He explained “The study is concerned with preventing people who suffer from carotid sinus hypersensitivity and falls from having further falls”.

“This condition is an important reason contributing to falls, particularly amongst elderly people. A drop in blood pressure leading to a reduced blood supply going to the brain can result in sensation of dizziness, loss of balance and consequently a fall. This is often triggered by an abnormally sensitive reflex found on the carotid artery in the neck. This hypersensitivity can lead to the heart rate slowing down excessively and a fall in blood pressure”. Trials in Leicester have involved a dozen people though many more are required to help recruit the more than 250 required overall.

Carotid sinus hypersensitivity is present in three times as many older people with unexplained falls as those who have not fallen. Put another way carotid sinus hypersensitivity may be a contributory factor to an unexplained fall in up to a third of older people attending the A&E Department of a hospital. However, it is unclear at present whether implanting a pacemaker which will keep the heart beating at a regular rate will also stop the fall in blood pressure and therefore prevent falls. The results of this multi-centre study co-ordinated by the University of Newcastle and sponsored by Medtronic (who make the pacemaker) should answer this question.

NOTE TO NEWSDESK: For more information, please ring 0116 256 3365

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Information supplied by: Barbara Whiteman
Last updated: 16 November 2001 15:47
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