Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common disease with increasing prevalence, approximately 3.2% in the adult population. In addition, about one third of AF cases are considered asymptomatic. Due to increased longevity, increased detection and increased prevalence of risk factors, the prevalence of AF is expected to at least double by the year 2060. Patients with AF have an increased risk for ischaemic stroke, heart failure, death and cognitive decline. Treatment with oral anticoagulation reduces the risk of ischaemic stroke and mortality, and the effect on cognitive decline is being studied. Based on the increasing prevalence of AF, its often asymptomatic and paroxysmal presentation and the efficacy of oral anticoagulation treatment, screening for AF has been proposed. AF seems to fulfil most of the Wilson-Jungner criteria for screening issued by the World Health Organization, but some knowledge gaps remain, gaps that will be addressed by several ongoing studies. The knowledge gaps in AF screening consist of the magnitude of the net benefit or net harm inflicted by AF screening because the oral anticoagulation treatment will also increase the risk of bleeding, and the psychological effects of AF screening are not very well studied. So far, the AF screening recommendations issued by the European Society of Cardiology have had limited impact on national and regional AF screening activities. Several large-scale AF screening studies will report results on hard endpoints within the next few years, and these results will hopefully manifest AF as a cardiovascular disease which we need to pay more attention to.
© 2021 The Authors. Journal of Internal Medicine published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Association for Publication of The Journal of Internal Medicine.