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The only project of its kind that studies all acute vascular events, such as strokes and heart attacks, in order to develop better treatments has recruited its 10,000th Oxfordshire participant.

Peter Casey, the 10,000th participant

The Oxford Vascular Study (OxVasc) began in 2002. It involves University of Oxford staff (including many from the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences) at the John Radcliffe Hospital collecting detailed health data, blood samples and carrying out scans.

The study has provided vital data on the frequency, time-trends, causes and outcomes of heart attacks, strokes, transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs or mini strokes), aneurysms and other circulatory problems, as well as subsequent complications, such as dementia.

To date more than 200 scientific papers have been published, some leading to major changes in clinical practice locally, nationally and internationally. These include: 

  • Demonstration of the very high risk of major stroke after minor ‘warning’ symptoms which led to the development of emergency clinics.
  • Showing that urgent treatment of patients following these events reduces the risk of major stroke by 80% - one of the most effective interventions across all of medicine.
  • Identification of labile blood pressure as a powerful risk factor for vascular events.
  • Use of mobile phone telemetric home blood pressure monitoring to properly diagnose high blood pressure and to monitor treatment. 
We are delighted to have reached this milestone in recruitment, and we want to thank all of the patients and their relatives in Oxfordshire who have helped us so much, as well as the local general practices who make the study possible.
- Professor Peter Rothwell

Patients are enrolled while in hospital or following referral by participating GPs to a daily emergency out-patient clinic. Clinicians make assessments and participants undergo state-of-the art investigations, including brain imaging and home blood pressure monitoring, with measurements transmitted in real-time to the study doctors. Relatives and friends can also consent to participate so that comparisons can be made between people who have had a vascular event and those that haven’t.

The 10,000th participant was Wantage’s Peter Casey, 55, who was referred to OxVasc in April 2016 after experiencing a TIA which caused temporary confusion and memory loss. Scans and tests showed the jewellery shop owner had high cholesterol and blood pressure and atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat. He said: 'The GP said ‘there is a really fantastic study going on at the JR, they will be the people to look after you’.

The study is the first in the world to assess and follow-up all vascular conditions at the same time in the same population. It is a collaboration with about 100 GPs covering a population of 100,000 residents of Oxfordshire. One of its key strengths is that participation is extremely high, with more than 99 per cent of participants who are asked to take part in the study giving their consent to at least some collection of data, thus avoiding 'selection bias', where the sample may not represent the whole population.

This allows researchers to draw conclusions from the data that are as reliable as possible on a host of different topics ranging from studies of genetic factors and other biomarkers for risk of disease to studies of how best to deliver high-quality clinical care.

OXVASC is co-ordinated by the Centre for the Prevention of Stroke and Dementia in partnership with Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH). The study is planning to continue to recruit until at least 2022 and is funded by the Wellcome Trust, The Stroke Association and the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, a partnership between Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Oxford. Previous funders have included the Medical Research Council and the Dunhill Medical Trust.