National Echo Database Australia praised at largest cardiology conference in the world

01 September 2020

Professor David Playford and Adjunct Professor Geoff Strange presented virtually two National Echo Database Australia (NEDA) abstracts as part of the Late Breaking Science presentations at the European Society of Cardiology meeting on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 August.

With only two imaging-based Late Breaking Science presentations from Australia, both Professor Playford and Adjunct Professor Strange put their research and The University of Notre Dame Australia at the forefront of understanding, analysing, and treating cardiological conditions.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic creation Sherlock Holmes once uttered the words, “it is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” In this case, Holmes was after clues that may lead to the capture and arrest of a mysterious criminal, and he was cautioning against making assumptions before having all the facts. For the character and his loyal companion Watson, gathering the data meant walking through crime scenes and visiting suspects. But what if the challenge requiring data is to find more effective treatments for heart disease?

Nearly a million echocardiograms are performed each year in Australia, but for years there was no systematic method of capturing and comparing data from these tests. NEDA was developed to do just this and is now the largest echo database in the world, supporting ground-breaking global research.

“NEDA is designed to obtain measurements and report data, but no images, from each digital echo laboratory across Australia and transfer this important information to a secure database for comparison against mortality data,” Professor Playford says.

This broad approach to data collection will allow researchers to answer a series of important questions about heart disease.

Professor Playford’s presentation, was titled ‘Diastolic Dysfunction and Mortality in 436,360 men and women: The National Echo Database Australia (NEDA)’. Each time the heart beats, it also relaxes, a complex process requiring energy. Diastolic dysfunction refers to abnormal relaxation of the heart, which can result in heart failure and a higher risk of dying. The research was to examine the current methods of diagnosing diastolic dysfunction using current international guidelines, and also to look at whether simple measurements can equally diagnose this condition.

His research found that many patients were “indeterminate” using the guidelines, meaning that no diagnosis was made despite an increased risk of dying from heart disease. In addition, he found that several simple measures showed a threshold, outside of which there was a higher risk of death from heart disease. Using both of these tools together, it is possible to accurately identify people with diastolic dysfunction, enabling diagnosis and treatment to be made earlier.

Adjunct Professor Strange’s research delved into the significance of routinely observed changes inleft ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) and used NEDA to investigate long-term mortality associated with these changes.

The left ventricle is the main pumping chamber of the heart, and the ejection fraction refers to how much blood is being pumped out with each contraction. A normal LVEF ranges from 55% to 70, if it dips lower than this, it can be a sign of potential heart failure and increases the risk of death due to heart disease.

Within the large NEDA Australian patient cohort, Professor Strange and his team found that even minor abnormalities in LVEF can have an effect on the risk of death, and restoration of LVEF back to a normal “safe zone” above 60% dramatically improves outcome. The worse the heart function the more important any improvement in heart function becomes.

Results like this have tangible benefits for everyone suffering from a heart condition. Echocardiograms are the standard method of assessing heart function. With this new data, doctors are better equipped to identify patients at risk, and to choose treatments that will benefit patients the most.

Thanks to Professor Playford and Adjunct Professor Strange and their work on the NEDA, the future of treating and monitoring patients with heart disease is looking more and more positive with each piece of research.

Visit the NEDA website to find out more about this seminal database and the way it is being used to improve quality of life across the world.


Media Contact: Breyon Gibbs : +61 8 9433 0569 | breyon.gibbs@nd.edu.au