Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common arrhythmia in Germany and is associated with an increased risk of thromboembolic stroke. The risk to suffer from AF increases with age. Early detection of AF and anticoagulation seem the most effective way of preventing ischaemic stroke in patients at risk. The guidelines of the European Society of Cardiology recommend opportunistic screening for AF by pulse check at each general practitioner visit for all patients aged 65 years or older.
The objective of this study was to test whether an opportunistic AF screening with a hand-held diagnostic tool in a German pharmacy setting is useful in detecting unknown AF among people in the age of 65 and older. Besides a pulse palpation with a hand-held ECG-stick the screening in the pharmacies also includes a questionnaire related to demographics and medical history of the subject as well as several questions concerning the stroke risk stratification (CHA?DS?-VASc). Every subject with a positive test result (indication on AF) is insistently asked to make an appointment with his or her general practitioner. The subject receives an information letter for his or her general practitioner that adverts to the positive screening result and the necessity of further diagnostic Investigation.
In order to assess the incidence of unknown AF as well as accomplish the secondary objectives of this study, two follow-ups by means of telephone interviews are performed. First, all subjects with a positive test result are called 8 weeks after the screening in the pharmacies was conducted. The subject is asked several questions concerning personal data/demographics, the stroke risk (CHA?DS?-VASc), the medical history regarding to dyspnea and stroke, the bleeding risk (HAS-Bled), the medication, the device, diagnostic, the therapy, the Intervention and the mace. 12 months after the screening in the pharmacies was performed, all participating subjects were called. The list of questions is similar to the one that is used during the first telephone interviews after eight weeks.