Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia, affecting 2.7 million to 6.1 million persons in the United States. Although some persons with AFib have no symptoms, others do. For those without symptoms, AFib may be detected by 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG), single-lead monitors (such as ambulatory blood pressure monitors and pulse oximeters), or consumer devices (such as wearable monitors and smartphones). Pulse palpation and heart auscultation also may detect AFib. In a systematic review, screening with ECG identified more new cases of AFib than no screening. Atrial fibrillation is an important cause of stroke, and without anticoagulant treatment, patients with AFib have approximately a 5-fold increased risk for stroke. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reviewed the benefits and harms of ECG screening for AFib in adults aged 65 years or older and found inadequate evidence that ECG identifies AFib more effectively than usual care. This conclusion is in contrast to guidelines from the European Society of Cardiology and the National Heart Foundation of Australia and Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand, which found that active screening for AFib in patients older than 65 years may be useful. Here, 2 cardiologists discuss the risks and benefits of screening for AFib, if and when they would recommend screening, and whether they would recommend anticoagulation for a patient with screen-detected AFib.
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