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Over 65s should be screened for atrial fibrillation

6th March 2012

A meeting of 120 stroke specialists has concluded that GPs should offer routine screenings to people aged over 65 in order to identify atrial fibrillation.

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The meeting, which was organised by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) last week, said routine screening could reduce deaths caused by strokes.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) causes those who have the condition to have five times the risk of suffering a stroke and the danger of developing AF rises as a person gets older.

An estimate has suggested that 2,000 deaths and 5,000 strokes could be prevented if treatment and diagnosis of AF was improved.

Dr Scott Ramsay, of the RCPE said: "Atrial fibrillation is often a silent condition with serious consequences in the form of stroke. Its symptoms can go undetected, there has been uncertainty amongst doctors regarding how to treat it effectively and a lack of medical and public awareness about sufferers’ significantly increased risk of developing a stroke."

"The goal of treating atrial fibrillation is primarily to reduce the current unacceptable levels of avoidable stroke and the disability and premature death it causes. This is an issue of national significance and we have reached consensus that the most effective way of doing this would be for national screening programmes to be introduced throughout the UK for all people over 65 as a matter of urgency."

Data has suggested that around half of people who are eligible to received treatment for AF are not getting it.

The RCPE said GPs should carry out routine screening of patients over the age of 65, identify those with irregular pulses and send them for an ECG. 

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