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Principal Investigator
Duncan Edwards

1 April 2016 to 31 March 2018

Project No: 290

Funding round: FR 11

One in four strokes may be caused by an irregular heart beat known as atrial fibrillation (AF). Having AF means you are five times as likely to have a stroke.  Often, AF is diagnosed only after a stroke has occurred.  AF is commoner in older people, so it is getting commoner in the UK due to the ageing population.

The risk of stroke from AF can be reduced by anticoagulant drugs that make the blood less likely to form the clots that cause strokes.  It is possible that more strokes could be prevented if some well people who had never been diagnosed with AF were invited to be tested for AF in an organised manner as part of a “screening program”.  However, the UK National Screening Committee has recently said that they are unsure that a screening program would help people, as the number of strokes prevented may be too small compared to any harms, inconvenience or expense caused.  They have asked researchers to collect more evidence.

We are part of a larger effort by researchers to gather this evidence.  This small study forms part of this effort.  We intend to examine the health records of thousands of patients to compare what happened to patients who were well when their GP diagnosed them with AF with patients who had symptoms when they were diagnosed with AF.  We also intend to find out which types of people are most likely to develop AF under the age of 65.

We will then publish our findings in research papers that can be accessed for free by patients and researchers around the world.  We also hope the information we gather can help us begin a trial to find out whether some people should be screened for AF.

Amount awarded: £42,170