The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has given its support to a device that can find out whether a patient has an irregular heart beat while taking their blood pressure.
New medical technologies guidance published by the watchdog backs the practice of nurses using WatchBP Home A to check whether someone has asymptomatic atrial fibrillation while their blood pressure is being measured for something else.
NICE claims the device could mean primary care professionals are able to diagnose more people with atrial fibrillation, which would allow patients to be given treatment to reduce the risk of them suffering from a stroke as a result of their condition. And the guidance says an electrocardiogram should be given to patients who do show signs of an irregular and unusually fast heartbeat.
The body also recommends that nurses and doctors seeing patients they suspect may be suffering from hypertension use WatchBP Home A, which can also diagnose high blood pressure.
Patients with atrial fibrillation can suffer from dizzy spells, shortness of breath and palpitations. But for many people there are no symptoms and so they may only discover they have the condition from this type of opportunistic testing using the WatchBP Home A, which automatically detects any irregularities in pulse.
Professor Carole Longson, director of the NICE centre for health technology evaluation, said: “We are delighted to publish this new guidance supporting the use of Watch BP Home A for picking up atrial fibrillation whilst blood pressure is being measured in some people.
“The evidence considered by the independent Medical Technologies Advisory Committee indicates that the device can offer advantages in detecting atrial fibrillation opportunistically whilst measuring blood pressure, and that using the device in primary care could increase the detection rate of atrial fibrillation compared with taking the pulse by hand.
“This would allow preventative treatment to be considered to reduce the incidence of atrial fibrillation-related stroke. The guidance is not about screening for atrial fibrillation, but about the benefits that the device offers in helping to pick up atrial fibrillation by chance in people with suspected high blood pressure or those being screened for high blood pressure, in primary care.
“Using WatchBP Home A is associated with estimated overall cost savings per person screened of between £2.98 and £4.26 for people aged 65 or over, depending on their age.
“This guidance will give the NHS confidence in deciding whether to introduce the WatchBP Home A device to help detect atrial fibrillation in specified groups of people who are having their blood pressure taken.”