Aims: The primary objective of this study was to use computer simulations to suggest an optimal age for initiation of screening for unknown atrial fibrillation and to evaluate if repeated screening will add value.
Methods and results: In the absence of relevant clinical studies, this analysis was based on a simulation model. More than two billion different designs of screening programs for unknown atrial fibrillation were simulated and analysed. Data from the published scientific literature and registries were used to construct the model and estimate lifelong effects and costs. Costs and effects generated by 2 147 483 648 different screening designs were calculated and compared. Program designs that implied worse clinical outcome and were less cost-effective compared to other programs were excluded from the analysis. Seven program designs were identified, and considered to be cost effective depending on what the health-care decision makers are ready to pay for gaining a quality-adjusted life-year (QALY). Screening at the age of 75 implied the lowest cost per gained QALY (€4 800/QALY).
Conclusion: In conclusion, examining the results of more than two billion simulated screening program designs for unknown atrial fibrillation, seven designs were deemed cost-effective depending on how much we are prepared to pay for gaining QALYs. Our results showed that repeated screening for atrial fibrillation implied additional health benefits to a reasonable cost compared to one-off screening.