Background: Atrial fibrillation, the world's most common arrhythmia, is a leading risk factor for stroke, a disease striking nearly 1.6 million Indians annually. Early detection and management of atrial fibrillation is a promising opportunity to prevent stroke but widespread screening programs in limited resource settings using conventional methods is difficult and costly.
Objective: The objective of this study is to screen people for atrial fibrillation in rural western India using a US Food and Drug Administration-approved single-lead electrocardiography device, Alivecor.
Methods: Residents from 6 villages in Anand District, Gujarat, India, comprised the base population. After obtaining informed consent, a team of trained research coordinators and community health workers enrolled a total of 354 participants aged 50 years and older and screened them at their residences using Alivecor for 2 minutes on 5 consecutive days over a period of 6 weeks beginning June, 2015.
Results: Almost two-thirds of study participants were 55 years or older, nearly half were female, one-third did not receive any formal education, and more than one-half were from households earning less than US $2 per day. Twelve participants screened positive for atrial fibrillation yielding a sample prevalence of 5.1% (95% CI 2.7-8.7). Only one participant had persistent atrial fibrillation throughout all of the screenings, and 9 screened positive only once.
Conclusions: Our study suggests a prevalence of atrial fibrillation in this Indian region (5.1%) that is markedly higher than has been previously reported in India and similar to the prevalence estimates reported in studies of persons from North America and Europe. Historically low reported burden of atrial fibrillation among individuals from low and middle-income countries may be due to a lack of routine screening. Mobile technologies may help overcome resource limitations for atrial fibrillation screening in underserved and low-resource settings.
Keywords: India; atrial fibrillation; community health workers; mobile technology; screening.