Long-term Arrhythmia Monitoring in Cryptogenic Stroke: Who, How, and for How Long?

The Open Cardiovascular Medicine Journal 27 May 2016 RESEARCH ARTICLE DOI: 10.2174/1874192401610010089


Cryptogenic stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA) account for approximately one-third of stroke patients [1]. Paroxys-mal atrial fibrillation (PAF) has been suggested as a major etiology of these cryptogenic strokes [2, 3]. PAF can be difficult to diagnose because it is intermittent, often brief, and asymptomatic. PAF might be more prevalent than persistent atrial fibrillation in stroke and TIA patients, especially in younger populations [4, 5]. In patients with atrial fibrillation, anticoagulation provides significant risk reduction [6]. A new generation of oral anticoagulants has been approved for non-valvular atrial fibrillation, providing a variety of therapeutic options for patients with atrial fibrillation and risk of stroke [7].

Prior practice included an admission electrocardiogram (ECG) and continuous telemetry monitoring while in hospital [8]. However, this approach can lead to under-detection of brief asymptomatic events, which can occur at variable intervals, often outside of the hospital setting. Technological advancements have led to devices that can monitor cardiac rhythms outside of the hospital for longer durations resulting in higher yield of detection of atrial fibrillation events.

Moreover, recent studies show that the normal monitoring time for arrhythmias may be shorter than ideal in order to detect atrial fibrillation, and increasing this interval could significantly improve detection of atrial fibrillation in these patients [9, 10].

The aim of this study is to review the literature in order to define what subgroup of patients, with what methodologies, and for how long monitoring for atrial fibrillation should occur in patients presenting with cryptogenic stroke.

Keywords: Atrial fibrillation, ischemic stroke, monitoring, oral anticoagulation.
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