Screening for atrial fibrillation (AF) by assessing the pulse is recommended in high-risk patients. Some clinical trials demonstrated that the Microlife blood pressure monitor (BPM) with AF detection is more accurate than pulse palpation. This led to a change in practice guidelines in the United Kingdom where AF screening with the Microlife device is recommended instead of pulse palpation. Many BPMs have irregular heart beat detection, but they have not been shown to detect AF reliably. Recently, one study, in a highly select population, suggested that the Omron BPM with irregular heart beat detection has a higher sensitivity for AF than the Microlife BPM. We compared the Microlife and Omron BPMs to electrocardiographic readings for AF detection in general cardiology patients. Inclusion criteria were age≥50 years without a pacemaker or defibrillator. A total of 199 subjects were enrolled, 30 with AF. Each subject had a 12-lead electrocardiography, 1 Omron BPM reading, and 3 Microlife BPM readings as per device instructions. The Omron device had a sensitivity of 30% (95% confidence interval [CI] 15.4% to 49.1%) with the sensitivity for the first Microlife reading of 97% (95% CI 81.4% to 100%) and the Microlife readings using the majority rule (AF positive if at least 2 of 3 individual readings were positive for AF) of 100% (95% CI 85.9% to 100%). Specificity for the Omron device was 97% (95% CI 92.5% to 99.2%) and for the first Microlife reading of 90% (95% CI 83.8% to 94.2%) and for the majority rule Microlife device of 92% (95% CI 86.2% to 95.7%; p<0.0001). The specificity of both devices is acceptable, but only the Microlife BPM has a sensitivity value that is high enough to be used for AF screening in clinical practice.
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