Background: The cardiac diagnostic workup of stroke patients, especially the value of echocardiography and enhanced and prolonged Holter-ECG monitoring, is still a matter of debate. We aimed to analyse the impact of pathologies detected by echocardiography and ECG monitoring on therapeutic decisions and prognosis.
Methods: Find-AFRANDOMISED was a prospective multicenter study which randomised 398 acute ischemic stroke patients ≥ 60 years to enhanced and prolonged Holter-ECG monitoring or usual stroke unit care. This substudy compared therapeutic consequences of echocardiography and routine Holter-ECG or enhanced and prolonged Holter-ECG monitoring, respectively, and prognosis of patients with or without pathologic findings in echocardiography or Holter-ECG monitoring.
Results: 50.3% received enhanced and prolonged Holter-ECG monitoring and 49.7% routine ECG monitoring. 82.9% underwent transthoracic echocardiography (TTE), 38.9% transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) and 25.6% both procedures. 14/89 TEE pathologies and 1/90 TTE pathology led to a change in therapy, resulting in a number needed to change decision (NNCD) of 12 and 330 (p < 0.001), respectively. In comparison, enhanced and prolonged Holter-ECG monitoring found atrial fibrillation (AF) in 27 of 200 patients, and routine ECG monitoring in twelve of 198 patients, leading to therapeutic changes in all patients (NNCD 8 and 17, respectively, p < 0.001).
Conclusions: Most changes in therapeutic decisions were triggered by enhanced and prolonged Holter-ECG monitoring, which should therefore play a more prominent role in future guidelines. Echocardiography identifies a patient group at high cardiovascular risk, but rarely result in therapeutic changes. Whether this patient group requires further cardiovascular workup remains unknown. This should be further investigated by interdisciplinary neurocardiologic teams and in appropriate future trials.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01855035.