EMBARGO 00:01 Tuesday 9 May 2017
“To save thousands of lives from AF-related strokes screening must be a health priority of National Governments”
Tuesday 9 May, London: A White Paper published today in Circulation, the Journal of the American Heart Association, calls for governments worldwide to introduce screening for Atrial Fibrillation (AF) in all people aged 65 years and over. AF-SCREEN, an international collaboration, is leading a global push to introduce national screening programs for AF, the most common arrhythmia (heart rhythm disorder), which triggers catastrophic strokes.
Trudie Lobban MBE, CEO & Founder Arrhythmia Alliance, and a member of the AF-Screen collaboration, “Globally there are 33 million people with undiagnosed AF, who are at risk of suffering a debilitating, life-threatening AF-related stroke. Arrhythmia Alliance, together with AF Association and the AF-Screen, are calling on Governments worldwide to introduce AF screening programmes and prevent the many thousands of unnecessary deaths from AF-related strokes. We welcome the publication of this important White Paper which confirms the unquestionable value of a national screening programme for AF in people aged 65 and over.”
About 10 percent of ischemic strokes are caused by AF that is first detected at the time of stroke. Asymptomatic AF which underlies these strokes is not uncommon and can be easily detected by a manual pulse rhythm check, or by handheld mobile ECGs which provide a diagnosis in only 30 seconds.
Arrhythmia Alliance is undertaking a major campaign in 2017 to ‘identify the undiagnosed person’ culminating during World Heart Rhythm Week (5-11 June) when 100s of Know Your Pulse events will be held across more than 20 Countries, with the aim of making more than 1 million people pulse aware and taking over 10,000 pulse checks.
“Screening can be run through GPs, pharmacies or in the community, and carried out with manual pulse rhythm checks or with a handheld mobile ECG device, the best tool for rapidly offering a firm AF diagnosis, “added Lobban
“AF-related strokes are larger, more severe and harder to survive than other strokes,” said Professor Richard Schilling, Bart’s NHS Hospital Trust, London and Medical Director, Arrhythmia Alliance. “To be able to protect vulnerable people from ever experiencing one will spare them and their families a lot of heartache.”
“Widespread screening for asymptomatic atrial fibrillation in people aged 65 years and above could cost-effectively reduce strokes and their associated disability, and help save lives,” added Professor Schilling. “However, this is not yet widely recommended in guidelines.”
Trudie Lobban is a member of AF-SCREEN International Collaboration, comprising over 130 cardiologists, neurologists, GPs, health economists, nurses, pharmacists and patient support organisations from 33 countries. The White Paper was written by 60 AF-SCREEN members.
Professor Schilling concluded, “There is good evidence that finding asymptomatic AF before symptoms develop, and managing it with oral anticoagulants and other therapies, can greatly reduce the increased risk of AF-related stroke, and partially reverse the increased risk of associated death.”
As AF is so easy to detect, and the evidence that poor outcomes can be substantially modified by therapies, Arrhythmia Alliance and AF-SCREEN believe there is a reasonable, cost-effective case to screen for this abnormal heart rhythm in older people in the community, as well as in the clinic.
“If you are aged 65 years or over, then you can see your doctor to check your pulse, or check your own at home to see if it’s regular like a clock,” said Lobban. “If it’s irregular you can have an ECG and get your AF diagnosed and managed.”
Fast Facts on Atrial fibrillation and screening
- Atrial fibrillation (AF) is responsible for one third of all strokes.
- 27 per cent of AF-related strokes (amounting to 10% of all strokes) are not detected prior to stroke because AF is often asymptomatic (no apparent symptoms and unrecognised by the person with AF)
- AF-related strokes are more severe and cause greater disability than non-AF strokes
- Widespread screening for asymptomatic AF among people aged 65 years and over would be a potent way to prevent strokes and the burden of stroke-related harm because AF-related strokes are largely preventable by treatment with oral anticoagulant drugs.
- It is time to include AF screening in national guidelines.
The White Paper, Screening for Atrial Fibrillation, A Report of the AF-SCREEN International Collaboration, has 60 contributing authors is published in Circulation May 9th 2017 issue 19; Vol 135
For more information and to arrange an interview with Trudie Lobban contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07785 277343
Notes to editors
- Arrhythmia Alliance, are global advocates, working in partnership to reduce deaths and impact on individuals caused by cardiac arrhythmias and their associated morbidities. By raising awareness and campaigning for the improved detection and care of heart rhythm disorders, Arrhythmia Alliance aims to extend and improve the lives of the millions around the world that these conditions affect. Visit website heartrhythmalliance.org
- AF-SCREEN International Collaboration: www.afscreen.org