Monitoring pulse after stroke may help detect irregular heartbeat

Monitoring a patient’s pulse after a stroke may be a simple and effective first step in the detection of irregular heartbeat, according to results of recently published study.

Researchers provided instructions to 356 patients who experienced an acute ischemic stroke and their relatives on measuring the pulse to detect irregular heartbeat and compared the measurements to a recording to electrical activity in the heart, which showed 57 participants had irregular heartbeats.

Study results showed, when taken by a health care professional, pulse measurements had a sensitivity of 97% and a specificity of 94% in detecting irregular heartbeats and when taken by a patient’s relative, the sensitivity was 77% and the specificity was 93%. Overall, 89% of patients performed reliable measurements with a sensitivity of 54% and specificity of 96%. Researchers found false positive results occurred in six patients, while false negatives occurred in 17 patients.

“Screening pulse is the method of choice for checking for irregular heartbeat for people over age 65 [years] who have never had a stroke,” Bernd Kallmünzer, MD, of Erlangen University in Erlangen, Germany, stated in a press release. “Our study shows it may be safe, effective, noninvasive and an easy way to identify people who might need more thorough monitoring to prevent a second stroke.”

For more information:
Kallmünzer B. Neurology. 2014;doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000000690.

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