Screening for atrial fibrillation in the elderly: A network meta-analysis of randomized trials

Ayman Elbadawi, Ramy Sedhom, Mohamed Gad, Mohamed Hamed, Amr Elwagdy, Amr F. Barakat, Umair Khalid, Mamas A. Mamas, Yochai Birnbaum, Islam Y. Elgendy, Hani Jneid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the optimal screening strategy for atrial fibrillation (AF) have yielded conflicting results. Objective: To examine the comparative efficacy of different AF screening strategies in older adults. Methods: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane without language restrictions through January 2022, for RCTs evaluating the outcomes of non-invasive AF screening approaches among adults ≥65 years. We conducted a pairwise meta-analysis comparing any AF screening approach versus no screening, and a network meta-analysis comparing systematic screening versus opportunistic screening versus no screening. The primary outcome was new AF detection. Results: The final analysis included 9 RCTs with 85,209 patients. The weighted median follow-up was 12 months. The mean age was 73.4 years and men represented 45.6%. On pairwise meta-analysis, any AF screening (either systematic or opportunistic) was associated with higher AF detection (1.8% vs. 1.3%; risk ratio [RR] 2.10; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.20–3.65) and initiation of oral anticoagulation (RR 3.26; 95%CI 1.15–9.23), compared with no screening. There was no significant difference between any AF screening versus no screening in all-cause mortality (RR 0.97; 95%CI 0.93–1.01) or acute cerebrovascular accident (CVA) (RR 0.92; 95%CI 0.84–1.01). On network meta-analysis, only systematic screening was associated with higher AF detection (RR 2.73; 95% CI 1.62–4.59) and initiation of oral anticoagulation (RR 5.67; 95% CI 2.68–11.99), but not with the opportunistic screening, compared with no screening. Conclusion: Systematic AF screening using non-invasive tools was associated with higher rate of new AF detection and initiation of OAC, but opportunistic screening was not associated with higher detection rates. There were no significant differences between the various AF screening approaches with respect to rates of all-cause mortality or CVA events. However, these analyses are likely underpowered and future RCTs are needed to examine the impact of systematic AF screening on mortality and CVA outcomes. Primary funding source: None.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-45
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Internal Medicine
StatePublished - Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • AF
  • Opportunistic screening
  • Systematic screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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