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Screening for Atrial Fibrillation Increases Detection Rate

Pulse-taking followed by electrocardiography preferred

FRIDAY, Aug. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Active screening of elderly individuals for atrial fibrillation in primary care increases the detection rate, with pulse-taking followed by electrocardiography being the preferred method, according to study findings published online Aug. 3 in BMJ.

F.D. Richard Hobbs, M.B.Ch.B., from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, and colleagues randomly assigned 14,802 patients aged 65 years or older at 50 primary care centers in England to three groups: no screening; systematic screening for atrial fibrillation by invitation for electrocardiography; or opportunistic screening, in which patients with an irregular pulse were invited to undergo electrocardiography.

The researchers found that screening increased the detection rate for new cases of atrial fibrillation (1.63 versus 1.04 percent per year). Systemic and opportunistic screening were similarly effective in detecting new cases (1.62 versus 1.64 percent).

"Active screening for atrial fibrillation detects additional cases over current practice," Hobbs and colleagues conclude. "The preferred method of screening in patients aged 65 or over in primary care is opportunistic pulse-taking with follow-up electrocardiography."

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