Continuous cardiac monitoring reveals increased stroke risk among patients with greater burden of atrial fibrillation

Continuous heart monitoring for up to 14 days revealed a higher risk of ischemic stroke among patients who experienced a higher burden of atrial fibrillation, according to Kaiser Permanente research. Patients with a specific irregular heartbeat, called atrial fibrillation (AFib), who were not taking medication to prevent blood clots (anticoagulants), were monitored using a special electrocardiogram (ECG) patch that continuously records the heart’s electrical activity for two weeks and is then analysed for the occurrence and burden of different arrhythmias.
Atrial fibrillation is a major risk factor for stroke and is the most common cardiac irregularity seen by physicians. It currently affects up to an estimated 6 million people in the United States.
Researchers monitored 771 adults with paroxysmal (intermittent) atrial fibrillation treated in Kaiser Permanente’s Northern and Southern California regions over a 3-year period. They found that for each doubling of the amount of time that a patient’s heart was in atrial fibrillation during the monitoring period, there was a 33 percent increased risk of subsequent stroke, independent of other known risk factors.
The burden of atrial fibrillation was defined as the percentage of time spent in this irregular heart rhythm during the monitoring period, which averaged 13.8 days. The findings were derived by linking detailed clinical outcome data from Kaiser Permanente’s electronic medical records with the patch manufacturer’s database of analysed heartbeat data.
‘The availability of data collected from continuous, non-invasive ECG monitoring strategies allows for more comprehensive identification of atrial fibrillation burden, which in turn can help at-risk patients and their providers better evaluate treatment options for reducing the risk of stroke,’ said Alan Go, MD, chief of cardiovascular and metabolic conditions research.

Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research.