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Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2017 Jul;30(3):280-285.

Review of screening studies for atrial fibrillation in rural populations of 11 countries.

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Rural Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common cardiac arrhythmia, and pathological burden can be influenced by environmental factors. The rural environment may influence the burden of AF, although no systematic review studies have been conducted to address this issue. We performed a systematic review of AF screening studies conducted in rural global populations to determine the burden, risk factors, and screening methods surrounding AF in these settings. Out of the 1792 articles gathered from a keyword search of medical databases and reference lists, 18 publications from 11 countries were included in our analysis. The pooled prevalence of AF across the studies was 2.05% (95% confidence interval, 1.97%-2.13%) and ranged from 0.3% to 10.87%. Only one study utilized a handheld electrocardiogram to screen AF, while the rest used the 12-lead electrocardiogram. AF risk factors reported across studies varied and included increasing age, male gender, hypertension, diabetes, prior myocardial infarction or stroke, obesity, hyperlipidemia/hypercholesterolemia, alcohol consumption, and heart failure. However, none of the studies assessed all risk factors. We suggest that future research on AF in rural communities examine a complete checklist of AF risk factors to better understand their influence on AF burden and development. This will aid in understanding rural prevention strategies and the management of detected AF cases specific to rural areas. At present, the burden of AF in rural communities is poorly understood and has been underreported.

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