A study conducted by researchers from the Scripps Translational Science Institute in the US has found that patients with a high risk of atrial fibrillation (AFib) could be diagnosed with the condition quicker if a home-based wearable electrocardiogram (ECG) patch was used to check for the disorder instead of delayed monitoring.

The device could help to reduce the risk of stroke in AFib patients or help them to avoid a stroke altogether.

The researchers have called the trial mHealth Screening to Prevent Strokes (mSToPS) and published their results in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“For approximately 20% of individuals who experience a stroke due to AFib, the occurrence of AFib was not diagnosed until the time of their stroke or shortly afterward,” wrote lead author Dr Steven Steinhubl and colleagues. “However, if AFib is recognised, therapeutic anticoagulation can lead to an absolute risk reduction in all strokes of 2.7% per year for primary and 8.4% per year for secondary prevention, as well as a 0.5% per year absolute risk reduction in mortality.”

To conduct the study, the researchers enrolled 2,659 individuals who were randomly assigned to the immediate or delayed monitoring groups. Only 65% of these volunteers completed active monitoring and the control group contained a further 3,400 people.

During the randomised study, new AFib incidences were identified after four months in just under 4% of the participants in the at-home ECG patch group, compared to less than 1% of individuals in the delayed monitoring group.

After a year, AFib had been diagnosed in 109 of the monitored patients and 81 of the unmonitored. It was also found that active monitoring with the self-applied wearable ECG sensor patch was responsible for the increased use of anticoagulants, outpatient cardiology visits and primary care visits.

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The researchers have stated that further research is needed to determine the clinical implications of their results.