Patients who have suffered a stroke can help prevent another one simply by monitoring their pulse on a regular basis with the intent of detecting paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, researchers have found.

“Screening pulse is the method of choice for checking irregular heartbeat for people over age 65 who have never had a stroke,” noted study coauthor Bernd Kallmünzer, MD, in a statement from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN); the research was published in the AAN journal Neurology (2014;83[7]:598-603). 

“Our study shows it may be a safe, effective, noninvasive, and easy way to identify people who might need more thorough monitoring to prevent a second stroke.”

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The prospective study by Kallmünzer and colleagues focused on 256 persons with acute ischemic stroke at a tertiary stroke center, and the patients’ relatives. The participants were taught how to identify atrial fibrillation by measuring the peripheral pulse at the radial artery. 

Self-measurements were reliably performed by 89.1% of competent patients, with 54.1% sensitivity and 96.2% specificity. By comparison, pulse measurements taken by health-care professionals had a sensitivity of 96.5% and a specificity of 94% in detecting atrial fibrillation. Measurements taken by relatives had a sensitivity of 76.5% and a specificity of 92.9%.