Is Screening for Atrial Fibrillation in Canadian Family Practices Cost-Effective in Patients 65 Years and Older?

Can J Cardiol. 2018 Nov;34(11):1522-1525. doi: 10.1016/j.cjca.2018.05.016. Epub 2018 Jun 21.


We present an economic evaluation of a recently completed cohort study in which 2054 seniors were screened for atrial fibrillation (AF) in 22 Canadian family practices. Using a Markov model, trial and literature data were used to project long-term outcomes and costs associated with 4 AF screening strategies for individuals aged 65 years or older: no screening, screen with 30-second radial manual pulse check (pulse check), screen with a blood pressure machine with AF detection (BP-AF), and screen with a single-lead electrocardiogram (SL-ECG). Costs and outcomes were discounted at 1.5% and the model used a lifetime horizon from a public payer perspective. Compared with no screening, screening for AF in Canadian family practice offices using pulse check or screen with a blood pressure machine with AF detection is the dominant strategy whereas screening with SL-ECG is a highly cost-effective strategy with an incremental cost per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained of CAD$4788. When different screening strategies were compared, screening with pulse check had the lowest expected costs ($202) and screening with SL-ECG had the highest expected costs ($222). The no-screening arm resulted in the lowest number of QALYs (8.74195) whereas pulse check and SL-ECG resulted in the highest expected QALYs (8.74362). Probabilistic analysis confirmed that pulse check had the highest probability of being cost-effective (63%) assuming a willingness to pay of $50,000 per QALY gained. Screening for AF in seniors during routine appointments with Canadian family physicians is a cost-effective strategy compared with no screening. Screening with a pulse check is likely to be the most cost-effective strategy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnosis*
  • Blood Pressure Determination / economics
  • Canada
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Electrocardiography / economics
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Markov Chains
  • Mass Screening / economics*
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Pulse / economics
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years

Grant support