Did you know that there are approximately 6,000 strokes a year across Kent, Surrey and Sussex (KSS) – and one in three is caused by atrial fibrillation? Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is the most common type of irregular heart rhythm. Over a million people in the UK are living with the condition and it gets more common as we get older.
It’s a particularly complex condition because although it is a largely treatable illness, it often goes undetected. It’s estimated that more than 65,500 people could be living with undiagnosed AF in KSS. In Surrey Heartlands over 6000 people in the expected AF population are ’missing’ – living with a potentially life threatening condition – and our mission is to find them before a stroke happens to them.
AF means your heart is not working as well as it could be and this could increase your risk of stroke by up to five times. If you have AF, your doctor will look to treat both the condition and your risk of stroke. S/he will assess your stroke risk through a simple calculation. The correct treatment can prevent AF causing a stroke. Anticoagulation therapy (blood thinning medication) is the main method used to reduce your risk of an AF-related stroke and currently in Surrey Heartlands 82.6% of eligible patients known to have atrial fibrillation receive anticoagulation therapy.
My Grandmother died of an AF-related stroke on her 81st birthday and I miss her so much. If she had been on anticoagulant therapy the risk of her having an AF-related stroke would have been minimised. While I would have loved more time with my Nan, I can take comfort in the fact that she had a fairly long life. But AF can affect you at any age and the consequences without therapy can be severely disabling or fatal. Raising awareness of this, teaching people to feel their own pulse and providing affordable, accessible check-ups, will help us detect and review those most at risk.
This is why I am proud to be leading on the AF project across KSS and Surrey Heartlands. We’re now at the start of an exciting new chapter in our AF work and have recently allocated 500+ AliveCor Kardia mobile ECG devices to be distributed across the KSS region. Across Surrey Heartlands we have 96 AliveCor devices going to a range of settings including community pharmacies, GP practices, community nurses, prisons, allied HCPs, patients’ homes and community hospitals, to carry out opportunistic pulse rhythm checks and find those ‘missing’ people who have atrial fibrillation.
The devices are being distributed to the practitioners most likely to see and examine patients who are at high risk of AF or AF-related stroke. They will implement a plan in their practice as to how mobile single lead ECGs will be incorporated into the patient pathway and how further investigation (12 lead ECG) and treatment (anticoagulation or other treatments) for anyone identified as ‘possible Atrial Fibrillation’ will then be initiated in a timely manner.
Mobile ECGs have been demonstrated as an effective, low cost solution for identifying new AF and reducing the risk of AF-related strokes. The beauty of the AliveCor device is that it is quick and easy to use, requires no specialist equipment or training, and provides a direct result that can easily be shared with GPs.
By seeding the devices in a range of settings across the region we hope to be able to not only identify those with AF, but also raise awareness of the condition, open up conversations around the signs and symptoms to look out for and educate others on the importance of pulse rhythm checks.
I know already that these devices are saving lives; and every person we help to have longer in this world with their loved ones is a brilliant result for them – and for us!
A hub of AF resources for clinicians and patients can be found on the resource page at:www.kssahsn.net/atrialfibrillation
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