Documentation of atrial fibrillation among non-conveyed ambulance patients: a new primary prevention opportunity?

Emily Heppenstall, Graham McClelland*, Chris Price, Chris Wilkinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Introduction: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common sustained cardiac arrhythmia and is a significant risk factor for stroke. Prescription of oral anticoagulant (OAC) medication reduces the risk of AF-related stroke by 64% ‐ yet over 400,000 people in England have undiagnosed (and therefore untreated) AF.

Emergency medical services (EMS) encounter a wide range of patients, some of whom may not engage with other healthcare services. AF may be detected by EMS in connection with the cause of the call, or as an incidental finding. While EMS are not traditionally utilised for public health screening, they may offer an opportunity to identify patients with undiagnosed or untreated AF and refer onward.

This study aimed to explore what proportion of patients seen by EMS who were not transported to hospital had AF and to estimate how many would potentially benefit from OAC.

Methods: A retrospective service evaluation was conducted using routinely collected data from a large UK regional ambulance service. The sample included adults attended by EMS on the 15th of each month in 2019, who were not transported to hospital and where an electrocardiogram was recorded. Of those with AF, we calculated the proportion in whom this was possibly new and report whether OAC was prescribed.

Results: There were 859 patients who met the inclusion criteria, of whom 91 (11%) had AF documented. Of the 91 patients with AF, 23 (25%) had no documented history of AF or OAC prescription, so were potentially new diagnoses of AF, who would benefit from consideration of OAC therapy.

Conclusion: The EMS assessment offers an opportunity for AF to be identified in patients who were not transported to hospital. EMS may have a role in primary prevention of harm, including stroke, by identifying and referring patients with AF for consideration of OAC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-57
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Paramedic Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes

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