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Practice nurses to identify heart rhythm abnormalities with new risk scoring system

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Practice nurses will be able to help identify patients at risk of heart rhythm abnormalities and initiate preventative measures much sooner through a new risk scoring system.

German, Australian and US scientists have come up with a way to assess peoples’ risk of atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common heart rhythm abnormality, using clinical characteristics that can be assessed in primary care.

The team from Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz, and colleagues followed up 4,764 people aged 45-95 years taking part in the Framingham Heart Study over ten years. None had AF at baseline but 457 (10%) went on to develop it over the decade.

During this time, individuals were monitored for the condition and their clinical characteristics and echocardiographic details measured. From this, mathematical modelling was used to work out which risk factors were linked to AF.

Age, sex, body-mass index, systolic blood pressure, treatment for hypertension, PR interval, clinically significant heart murmur, and heart failure were the strongest risk factors linked to the condition and were included in the final model.

Lancet (2009) 373: 739–745

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