Journal Article
Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
Systematic Review
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Screening for Atrial Fibrillation: Updated Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force.

JAMA 2022 January 26
Importance: Atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common arrhythmia, increases the risk of stroke.

Objective: To review the evidence on screening for AF in adults without prior stroke to inform the US Preventive Services Task Force.

Data Sources: PubMed, Cochrane Library, and trial registries through October 5, 2020; references, experts, and literature surveillance through October 31, 2021.

Study Selection: Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of screening among asymptomatic persons without known AF or prior stroke; test accuracy studies; RCTs of anticoagulation among persons with AF; systematic reviews; and observational studies reporting harms.

Data Extraction and Synthesis: Two reviewers assessed titles/abstracts, full-text articles, and study quality and extracted data; when at least 3 similar studies were available, meta-analyses were conducted.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Detection of undiagnosed AF, test accuracy, mortality, stroke, stroke-related morbidity, and harms.

Results: Twenty-six studies (N = 113 784) were included. In 1 RCT (n = 28 768) of twice-daily electrocardiography (ECG) screening for 2 weeks, the likelihood of a composite end point (ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, systemic embolism, all-cause mortality, and hospitalization for bleeding) was lower in the screened group over 6.9 years (hazard ratio, 0.96 [95% CI, 0.92-1.00]; P = .045), but that study had numerous limitations. In 4 RCTs (n = 32 491), significantly more AF was detected with intermittent and continuous ECG screening compared with no screening (risk difference range, 1.0%-4.8%). Treatment with warfarin over a mean of 1.5 years in populations with clinical, mostly persistent AF was associated with fewer ischemic strokes (pooled risk ratio [RR], 0.32 [95% CI, 0.20-0.51]; 5 RCTs; n = 2415) and lower all-cause mortality (pooled RR, 0.68 [95% CI, 0.50-0.93]) compared with placebo. Treatment with direct oral anticoagulants was also associated with lower incidence of stroke (adjusted odds ratios range, 0.32-0.44) in indirect comparisons with placebo. The pooled RR for major bleeding for warfarin compared with placebo was 1.8 (95% CI, 0.85-3.7; 5 RCTs; n = 2415), and the adjusted odds ratio for major bleeding for direct oral anticoagulants compared with placebo or no treatment ranged from 1.38 to 2.21, but CIs did not exclude a null effect.

Conclusions and Relevance: Although screening can detect more cases of unknown AF, evidence regarding effects on health outcomes is limited. Anticoagulation was associated with lower risk of first stroke and mortality but with increased risk of major bleeding, although estimates for this harm are imprecise; no trials assessed benefits and harms of anticoagulation among screen-detected populations.

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