HIQA publishes economic evaluation of a national screening programme for atrial fibrillation

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published a health technology assessment which finds that a national screening programme for atrial fibrillation for over 65s in primary care would likely be cost-effective in Ireland. Atrial fibrillation screening aims to detect the risk of stroke in an individual as early as possible. 

Implementation of an atrial fibrillation screening programme is among the recommendations contained in the National Cardiovascular Policy 2010-2019. HIQA’s ‘Health technology assessment (HTA) of a national screening programme for atrial fibrillation in primary care’ was carried out in conjunction with the HSE National Clinical Programme for Stroke, who have previously completed a pilot atrial fibrillation screening project to assess the feasibility of a national programme.

HIQA’s Director of Health Technology Assessment Dr Máirín Ryan said: “Based on the best available evidence, annual opportunistic pulse palpation for those aged 65 and older is expected to lead to reductions in the incidence and severity of atrial fibrillation-related strokes. This is assuming that those detected by screening have a comparable risk of stroke as those detected through routine care.”

“Our analysis estimates that screening would result in the detection of one additional atrial fibrillation case for every 22 people screened from age 65 onwards, and one stroke avoided for every 270 people screened over the same period. The total incremental cost to the HSE is approximately €3.7 million over the first five years. This includes the additional costs associated with screening ECGs and atrial fibrillation drug therapy in diagnosed cases, as well as the cost savings resulting from a gradual decrease in stroke incidence over a period of five years.”

Further Information: 

Marty Whelan, Head of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement
01 8147480 / 086 2447623 mwhelan@hiqa.ie

Notes to the Editor: 

  • HIQA is the statutory organisation in Ireland with a responsibility to carry out national health technology assessments (HTAs) and to develop guidelines for the conduct of HTAs across our healthcare system.
  • Atrial fibrillation is the most common abnormal heart rhythm seen in general practice and is associated with a five times increase in the risk of stroke. Strokes related to atrial fibrillation are also more severe, with twice the death rate of non-atrial fibrillation related strokes and greater functional deficits for those who do survive.
  • There are about 8,000 strokes in Ireland annually, approximately a third of which are associated with atrial fibrillation.