A Comparison of Atrial Fibrillation Monitoring Strategies After Cryptogenic Stroke (from the Cryptogenic Stroke and Underlying AF Trial)
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Ischemic stroke cause remains undetermined in 30% of cases, leading to a diagnosis of cryptogenic stroke. Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (AF) is a major cause of ischemic stroke but may go undetected with short periods of ECG monitoring. The Cryptogenic Stroke and Underlying Atrial Fibrillation trial (CRYSTAL AF) demonstrated that long-term electrocardiographic monitoring with insertable cardiac monitors (ICM) is superior to conventional follow-up in detecting AF in the population with cryptogenic stroke. We evaluated the sensitivity and negative predictive value (NPV) of various external monitoring techniques within a cryptogenic stroke cohort. Simulated intermittent monitoring strategies were compared to continuous rhythm monitoring in 168 ICM patients of the CRYSTAL AF trial. Short-term monitoring included a single 24-hour, 48-hour, and 7-day Holter and 21-day and 30-day event recorders. Periodic monitoring consisted of quarterly monitoring through 24-hour, 48-hour, and 7-day Holters and monthly 24-hour Holters. For a single monitoring period, the sensitivity for AF diagnosis was lowest with a 24-hour Holter (1.3%) and highest with a 30-day event recorder (22.8%). The NPV ranged from 82.3% to 85.6% for all single external monitoring strategies. Quarterly monitoring with 24-hour Holters had a sensitivity of 3.1%, whereas quarterly 7-day monitors increased the sensitivity to 20.8%. The NPVs for repetitive periodic monitoring strategies were similar at 82.6% to 85.3%. Long-term continuous monitoring was superior in detecting AF compared to all intermittent monitoring strategies evaluated (p <0.001). Long-term continuous electrocardiographic monitoring with ICMs is significantly more effective than any of the simulated intermittent monitoring strategies for identifying AF in patients with previous cryptogenic stroke.
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