Experts have identified an urgent need for public programmes to detect atrial fibrillation in the general population.
It follows the publication of results from the Global Registry on Long-Term Oral Antithrombotic Treatment in Patients with Atrial Fibrillation (GLORIA- AF) presented at the European Heart Rhythm Association EUROPACE – CARDIOSTIM 2017 this week, which showed that newly diagnosed asymptomatic atrial fibrillation patients have a higher rate of previous stroke than those with symptoms.
The study included 6,011 consecutively enrolled patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation in Western Europe. Asymptomatic patients were twice as likely to have permanent atrial fibrillation (15.8 per cent versus 8.3 per cent) and more than twice as likely to have had a previous stroke (14.7 per cent versus 6.0 per cent) than patients in the symptomatic group. Asymptomatic and symptomatic patients had a similar number of stroke risk factors.
Lead author, Dr Steffen Christow, said the finding of a higher rate of previous stroke in the asymptomatic patients despite no differences in the number of stroke risk factors may be explained by a longer but undiagnosed history of atrial fibrillation. “Without detection, patients may not receive appropriate preventive therapy and remain at increased risk of stroke,” he said.