HealthDay News — A handheld single-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) device used for screening of older adults at primary care visits does not increase new diagnoses of atrial fibrillation (AF) in a population aged 65 years or older, according to a study published online March 2 in Circulation.

Steven A. Lubitz, M.D., M.P.H., from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues randomly assigned 16 primary care clinics to AF screening using a handheld single-lead ECG during vital sign assessments or usual care in a 1:1 ratio. A total of 30,715 patients without prevalent AF, all aged 65 years or older, were included (15,393 screening and 15,322 control).

The researchers found that 1.72 and 1.59% of individuals in the screening group and the control group, respectively, had new AF diagnosed at one year (risk difference [RD], 0.13%; 95% confidence interval [CI], −0.16 to 0.42; P = 0.38). In prespecified subgroup analyses, among those aged 85 years or older, new AF diagnoses were greater in the screening and control groups (RD, 1.80%; 95% CI, 0.18 to 3.30). A greater difference in newly diagnosed AF between the screening period and the prior year in the screening group versus control group was observed in patients 85 years and older.

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“We think handheld devices are best deployed for people at the highest risk of a-fib and stroke, and age is an excellent surrogate for that determination,” Lubitz said in a statement.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical and medical device companies, including Bristol Myers Squibb/Pfizer, which funded the study.

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