Prompt diagnosis of AF lowers risk of complications.
Leo M., Betts T.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common sustained heart rhythm disturbance. Estimates suggest an AF prevalence as high as 2% in adults with an exponential relationship with increasing age. AF is associated with a 1.5-2 fold increased risk of death, and is responsible for 20-30% of all strokes. There are strong relationships with hypertension, heart failure, coronary artery disease (CAD), valvular heart disease, obesity, diabetes mellitus, COPD, obstructive sleep apnoea, chronic kidney disease and lifestyle factors such as increased alcohol intake, strenuous physical exercise and smoking. Assessment should include physical examination (blood pressure measurement, cardiovascular examination to look for valvular heart disease or heart failure and lung examination looking for signs of lung disease or pulmonary oedema), blood tests, including urea and electrolytes, liver function tests, full blood count, blood glucose and thyroid function tests. Signs of haemodynamic instability or severe symptoms (unstable angina, evolving TIA or stroke, heart failure or severe bradycardia) should be promptly identified and lead to urgent referral to specialist care. The CHA2DS2-VASc risk stratification score is recommended to assess stroke risk in patients with AF. Oral anticoagulation should be offered to those with a CHA2DS2-VASc score ≥ 2, and considered for men with a score of 1 and women with a score of 2. Risk of severe bleeding with warfarin should also be assessed using the HAS-BLED score.