New test for atrial fibrillation, a common, treatable, but often hidden disease

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is the most common form of irregular heart rhythm, estimated to affect up to 2% of the world’s population.  The likelihood of developing AF increases with age and the number of people affected is expected to double in the next 20 years.  AF is believed to account for one third of all hospital admissions for cardiac rhythm problems and believed to cause around 15% of all strokes.  In AF, the upper chambers of the heart quiver instead of beating effectively. When this happens, blood in these chambers can pool and clot.  If a piece of the blood clot travels to an artery in the brain and becomes lodged, it may cause a stroke.  Therefore early detection and treatment could save healthcare systems the enormous cost of treating patients under emergency conditions, and improve outcomes for the patients concerned.

There are many causes of AF.  In some people, AF has no apparent cause, in others it may be related to certain medical conditions including high blood pressure, coronary artery disease (hardening of the heart’s arteries) or chronic lung disease.  In addition, alcohol abuse or binge drinking also increase the risk of developing AF.

Although a common condition affecting more than one in ten people over the age of 75, AF is not always recognised immediately as symptoms such as palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness and fainting are similar to those of other medical conditions, or there may be no symptoms at all.  New guidelines commissioned by NICE from the National Collaborating Centre for Chronic Conditions (NCC-CC), based at the Royal College of Physicians, aim to help General Practitioners (GPs) and other healthcare professionals recognise and treat AF.
The standard test for AF is an electrocardiogram (ECG) for all patients, whether symptomatic or not, in whom AF is suspected because an irregular pulse has been detected.  However, finding AF can be difficult, especially if the patient does not have any symptoms or if the AF is intermittent.  A new screening tool called Medilog Darwin Atrial has been developed by Huntleigh Healthcare to help detect AF easily and reliably and without the need for a hospital visit.  

Medilog Darwin Atrial uses high speed sampling and displays the result as a simple graph which can be interpreted easily by GPs, nurses and technicians to see if the patient has AF.

Once detected, there are a variety of treatments to prevent blood clots from forming, reducing the risk of a stroke and to get the heart rate and rhythm under control.  These include medicines as well as other types of treatments such as pacemakers, surgery or cardioversion (a controlled electrical shock) to reset the heart’s rhythm.

By screening for AF at GP surgeries, Medilog Darwin Atrial will help save healthcare trusts money by reducing referrals and emergency admissions to hospital as well as improving treatment for patients.  Medilog Darwin Atrial puts a reliable, affordable and non-invasive screening device in the hands of people that can make a difference.

For further details on AF or for information about Medilog Darwin Atrial go to


Notes to Editors

About Huntleigh Healthcare:  Huntleigh is a global healthcare company supplying a broad range of innovative medical equipment products to hospitals and care centres around the world to improve the quality of patient care.

Huntleigh has grown over the past 30 years to be one of the largest manufacturers and distributors of medical equipment in the world. The group now employs more than 2,500 people in over twenty countries.


Sales enquiries:
Tel +44 (0) 1483 746417 Email Web

Further information and colour separations, contact: Robin Chapman – Huntleigh Healthcare
Tel +44 (0) 1483 746417 Fax +44 (0) 1483 746426 Email

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