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      Screening Education And Recognition in Community pHarmacies of Atrial Fibrillation to prevent stroke in an ambulant population aged ≥65 years (SEARCH-AF stroke prevention study): a cross-sectional study protocol

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          Atrial fibrillation (AF) is associated with a high risk of stroke and may often be asymptomatic. AF is commonly undiagnosed until patients present with sequelae, such as heart failure and stroke. Stroke secondary to AF is highly preventable with the use of appropriate thromboprophylaxis. Therefore, early identification and appropriate evidence-based management of AF could lead to subsequent stroke prevention. This study aims to determine the feasibility and impact of a community pharmacy-based screening programme focused on identifying undiagnosed AF in people aged 65 years and older.

          Methods and analysis

          This cross-sectional study of community-based screening to identify undiagnosed AF will evaluate the feasibility of screening for AF using a pulse palpation and handheld single-lead electrocardiograph (ECG) device. 10 community pharmacies will be recruited and trained to implement the screening protocol, targeting a total of 1000 participants. The primary outcome is the proportion of people newly identified with AF at the completion of the screening programme. Secondary outcomes include level of agreement between the pharmacist's and the cardiologist's interpretation of the single-lead ECG; level of agreement between irregular rhythm identified with pulse palpation and with the single-lead ECG. Process outcomes related to sustainability of the screening programme beyond the trial setting, pharmacist knowledge of AF and rate of uptake of referral to full ECG evaluation and cardiology review will also be collected.

          Ethics and dissemination

          Primary ethics approval was received on 26 March 2012 from Sydney Local Health District Human Research Ethics Committee—Concord Repatriation General Hospital zone. Results will be disseminated via forums including, but not limited to, peer-reviewed publication and presentation at national and international conferences.

          Clinical trials registration number


          Article summary

          Article focus
          • Describes the protocol for a community-based screening programme to identify previously undetected AF in adults aged 65 years and older in the community, for stroke prevention.

          Key messages
          • Early identification of AF would allow for timely referral for medical review and subsequent initiation of appropriate evidence-based thromboprophylaxis to prevent stroke.

          • The efficacy of screening for AF in a community setting is yet to be tested in a well-designed clinical trial.

          Strengths and limitations of this study
          • The main strengths of this study are that it uses a simple community-focused strategy using innovative technology to screen for AF, which may be suitable for widespread implementation. The technology delivers a single-lead electrocardiograph available for immediate interpretation and corroboration by an expert cardiologist remotely.

          • The sample size of 1000 will inform the design and refinement of a future large-scale intervention and implementation study.

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          Most cited references 13

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          Guidelines for the management of atrial fibrillation: the Task Force for the Management of Atrial Fibrillation of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

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            Lifetime risk for development of atrial fibrillation: the Framingham Heart Study.

            Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac dysrhythmia and a source of considerable morbidity and mortality, but lifetime risk for AF has not been estimated. We included all participants in the Framingham Heart Study who were free of AF at index ages of 40 years and older. We estimated lifetime risks for AF (including atrial flutter) to age 95 years, with death free of AF as a competing event. We followed 3999 men and 4726 women from 1968 to 1999 (176 166 person-years); 936 participants had development of AF and 2621 died without prior AF. At age 40 years, lifetime risks for AF were 26.0% (95% CI, 24.0% to 27.0%) for men and 23.0% (21.0% to 24.0%) for women. Lifetime risks did not change substantially with increasing index age despite decreasing remaining years of life because AF incidence rose rapidly with advancing age. At age 80 years, lifetime risks for AF were 22.7% (20.1% to 24.1%) in men and 21.6% (19.3% to 22.7%) in women. In further analyses, counting only those who had development of AF without prior or concurrent congestive heart failure or myocardial infarction, lifetime risks for AF were approximately 16%. Lifetime risks for development of AF are 1 in 4 for men and women 40 years of age and older. Lifetime risks for AF are high (1 in 6), even in the absence of antecedent congestive heart failure or myocardial infarction. These substantial lifetime risks underscore the major public health burden posed by AF and the need for further investigation into predisposing conditions, preventive strategies, and more effective therapies.
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              Contribution of atrial fibrillation to incidence and outcome of ischemic stroke: results from a population-based study.

              Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a major risk factor for ischemic stroke and its prevalence increases steeply with age. Population-based data on its influence on stroke outcome are scarce. We evaluated the prevalence of AF and its influence on prognosis in patients with a first-ever ischemic stroke from a population-based registry. The presence of AF at stroke onset and during the acute phase was confirmed by a standard electrocardiogram in 869 (24.6%) of 3530 patients with ischemic stroke. With respect to patients without the arrhythmia, those with AF were more frequently women, aged 80 years and older, with coronary heart disease and peripheral arterial disease. The presence of AF was associated with high 30-day (32.5%; 95% CI, 29.3 to 35.6) and 1-year case-fatality rates (49.5%; 95% CI, 46.2 to 52.8), with a higher stroke recurrence rate within the first year of follow-up (6.6% versus 4.4%; P=0.046) and with the worst survival after an average follow-up of 45.2 months (P<0.0001). At the multivariate Cox regression analysis, AF was an independent predictor of 30-day and 1-year mortality. Approximately 17% of all deaths were attributable to the presence of AF. We found a high prevalence of AF in patients with a first-ever ischemic stroke, especially among elderly women. The overall contribution of AF to stroke mortality was relevant, suggesting that together with new strategies to prevent the development of the arrhythmia more appropriate treatments are needed, mostly in elderly women.

                Author and article information

                BMJ Open
                BMJ Open
                BMJ Open
                BMJ Group (BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9JR )
                25 June 2012
                25 June 2012
                : 2
                : 3
                [1 ]Department of Cardiology, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, Sydney, Australia
                [2 ]Vascular Biology, Anzac Research Institute, Sydney, Australia
                [3 ]Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
                [4 ]The George Institute for Global Health, Sydney, Australia
                [5 ]Centre for Education and Research on Aging, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, Sydney, Australia
                [6 ]Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
                [7 ]School of Population Health, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
                [8 ]School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
                Author notes
                Correspondence to Nicole Lowres; nicole.lowres@
                © 2012, Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and

                Cardiovascular Medicine



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