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HIQA says over 65s atrial fibrillation screening programme “cost-effective”

Atrial fibrillation is the most common abnormal heart rhythm seen in general practice and is associated with a five times increase in the risk of stroke.

Today HIQA published its economic evaluation of a national screening programme for atrial fibrillation and the authority estimates that the total incremental cost to the HSE is approximately €3.7 million over the first five years.

“Based on the best available evidence, annual opportunistic pulse palpation for those aged 65 and older is expected to lead to reductions in the incidence and severity of atrial fibrillation-related strokes,” said Dr Máirín Ryan HIQA’s Director of Health Technology Assessment.

“This is assuming that those detected by screening have a comparable risk of stroke as those detected through routine care.”

Atrial fibrillation screening aims to detect the risk of stroke in an individual as early as possible.

“Our analysis estimates that screening would result in the detection of one additional atrial fibrillation case for every 22 people screened from age 65 onwards, and one stroke avoided for every 270 people screened over the same period,” said Dr Ryan.

“The total incremental cost to the HSE is approximately €3.7 million over the first five years. This includes the additional costs associated with screening ECGs and atrial fibrillation drug therapy in diagnosed cases, as well as the cost savings resulting from a gradual decrease in stroke incidence over a period of five years.”

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