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Opportunistic Atrial Fibrillation (AF) screening in a podiatry setting, Torbay, Devon

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Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac arrthymia and often goes unnoticed until complications occur, the most significant of which being a stroke. 

Identification and treatment of AF is a national focus and mentioned specifically within the NHS Long Term Plan.

Podiatrists routinely assess clients’ vascular status and irregular pulse – a possible sign of AF – but no formal pathway exists on how to manage this, resulting in the client remaining at risk. This high risk group was felt to be ideal for opportunistic screening by podiatrists at Torbay Hospital, Devon.  

A Bayer pharmaceutical grant enabled the purchase of Wifi-enabled iPads and the SWAHSN provided Kardia AliveCor devices. The project involved training staff, creating standardised letters for GPs, and engaging the support of cardiac physiologists when traces showed an undetermined rhythm.

In only 30 weeks, 33 new cases of possible AF were identified from a cohort of 183 people. When followed up, all of these patients were confirmed as having AF and started on medication. In addition to this intended outcome of stroke avoidance, the project has empowered a cohort of professionals, previously research-naive, to liaise more with GPs and cardiac physiologists and improve their relationships with their patients.  

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