Detection of Atrial Fibrillation in Cryptogenic Stroke

Purpose of review: To summarize the literature on the detection of atrial fibrillation (AF) in patients with “cryptogenic” stroke, a cohort including about 25% of all ischemic stroke patients and patients with embolic stroke of undetermined source (ESUS).

Recent findings: A first episode of AF is detected in up to one third of cryptogenic stroke and in up to one fourth of ESUS patients during long-term monitoring. AF prevalence correlates to patient selection, duration, and quality of ECG monitoring. Higher rates of AF were reported in stroke patients with left atrial pathology, specific ECG alterations, or increased natriuretic peptides. While AF detection impacts on medical stroke prevention in the vast majority of patients, patient selection for prolonged monitoring is largely left at the physician’s discretion. AF detection after cryptogenic stroke or ESUS is a frequent, potentially causal condition. Whether subsequent oral anticoagulation may improve outcome remains open.