Prioritising Electrocardiograms for Manual Review to Improve the Efficiency of Atrial Fibrillation Screening


Screening for atrial fibrillation (AF) could reduce the incidence of stroke by identifying undiagnosed AF and prompting anticoagulation. However, screening may involve recording many electrocardiograms (ECGs) from each participant, several of which require manual review which is costly and time-consuming. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the number of ECG reviews could be reduced by using a model to prioritise ECGs for review, whilst still accurately diagnosing AF. A multiple logistic regression model was created to estimate the likelihood of an ECG exhibiting AF based on the mean RR-interval and variability in RR-intervals. It was trained on 1,428 manually labelled ECGs from 144 AF screening programme participants, and evaluated using 11,443 ECGs from 1,521 participants. When using the model to order ECGs for review, the number of reviews for AF participants was reduced by 74% since no further reviews are required after an AF ECG is identified; however, it did not impact the number of reviews in non-AF participants (the vast majority of participants), so the overall number of reviews was reduced by 3% with no missed AF diagnoses. When using the model to also exclude ECGs from review, the overall number of reviews was reduced by 28% with no missed AF diagnoses, and by 53% with only 4% of AF diagnoses missed. In conclusion, the workload can be reduced by using a model to prioritise ECGs for review. Ordering ECGs alone only provides only a moderate reduction in workload. The additional use of a threshold to exclude ECGs from review provides a much greater reduction in workload at the expense of some missed AF diagnoses.

Peter Charlton
Peter Charlton
Research Fellow

Biomedical Engineer specialising in signal processing for wearables.