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
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.
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.