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Opportunistic screening boosts atrial fibrillation detection

By Christian Duffin

GPs can pick up extra cases of atrial fibrillation among older people by opportunistic pulse taking and follow-up electrocardiography, research concludes.

The results emerged when researchers examined whether screening improved atrial fibrillation detection rates over 12 months.

They studied almost 15,000 patients, who were split randomly into three equal size groups: one which received no screening, a second that were invited for electrocardiography and a third that had their pulses taken opportunistically and were also invited for electrocardiography if this pulse was irregular.

The non-screening group contained 47 new cases, but groups two and three contained 74 and 75 respectively.

Intervention screening boosted detection rates by 0.59 % overall, the study found.

The preferred method of screening, the researchers concluded was opportunistic pulse taking and follow up ECG if the pulse was irregular. ‘Active screening for atrial fibrillation detects additional over current practice. The screening processes did not raise anxiety and were acceptable to patients,' the study published online by the BMJ concluded.

The researchers included Professor David Fitzmaurice, a part-time GP, and were based mostly at the University of Birmingham.

Opportunistic pulse taking and follow-up electrocardiography improves detection of atrial fibrillation Opportunistic pulse taking and follow-up electrocardiography improves detection of atrial fibrillation

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