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The Increasing Burden of Atrial Fibrillation

The Increasing Burden of Atrial Fibrillation

Research suggests that atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common heart rhythm disorder, but the global burden of AF has not been estimated until recently. The World Health Organization (WHO) assesses the global burden of many public health concerns every 20 years through its Global Burden of Disease Project, but AF was not included in 1990 when the project was last conducted. To establish the global and regional prevalence of AF—in addition to its associated incidence and mortality rates—Sumeet S. Chugh, MD, FACC, FHRS, FAHA, and colleagues systematically reviewed nearly 200 population-based studies of AF. Worldwide Findings “The most important metric that WHO established for understanding the burden that a disease imposes on society is disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs),” explains Dr. Chugh. He and his colleagues found that the burden associated with AF, measured in DALYs, increased by nearly 19% in both men and women between 1990 and 2010 (Figure 1). An estimated 33.5 million men and women had AF across the globe in 2010. The estimated age-adjusted, global prevalence rates per 100,000 population increased from 569.5 in 1990 to 596.2 in 2010 for men and from 359.9 in 1990 to 373.1 in 2010 for women. In addition, the overall incidence (Figure 2) and associated mortality rates (Figure 3) increased significantly for both genders during the study period. “AF is not a condition that directly leads to death,” notes Dr. Chugh. “However, it keeps company with many heart conditions that do.” On the Local Level It is well understood that patients are getting older, not only because of the baby boomer generation but also because survival rates among patients who...
Managing AF: A Look at Treating Specialty

Managing AF: A Look at Treating Specialty

About 2.3 million Americans are affected by atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter (AF), a condition that causes 15% of the 700,000 strokes that occur annually in the United States. Anticoagulants like warfarin can help prevent stroke in AF patients, but these therapies can also cause bleeding in some cases. “Prediction tools, such as the CHADS2 score, have been developed to estimate stroke risk and are now recommended by clinical guideline statements,” says Mintu P. Turakhia, MD, MAS. “These guidelines, however, vary considerably in describing how stroke and bleeding risk should be evaluated and integrated into clinical decision making.” Assessing Potential Variations in Warfarin Use It has been suspected that use of warfarin in AF may vary by specialty and over time. In the American Heart Journal, Dr. Turakhia and colleagues had a study published that evaluated differences and trends in warfarin prescription by treating specialty for new AF cases. Using VA data from the TREAT-AF study, the investigators reviewed more than 141,000 participants with newly diagnosed AF in which patients had at least one internal medicine, primary care, or cardiology encounter within 90 days of their diagnosis. The primary outcome was prescription of warfarin. According to results, care of patients with new AF from cardiologists appeared to be associated with a greater likelihood of warfarin prescription when compared with care only from primary care physicians (Table 1), even after adjusting for covariates and a propensity for cardiology care. The observation was also consistent across subgroups of patients, including those who were at lowest risk for bleeding. Furthermore, warfarin prescriptions were more frequently provided to those at highest risk for stroke,...
ED Care of AF & Hospital Charges

ED Care of AF & Hospital Charges

The initial management of newly recognized atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter (AF) lasting over 48 hours is generally heart rate control along with anticoagulation to prevent future embolic events. Once rate control is achieved by emergency physicians, decisions on the timing of the rhythm control are often left to admission cardiologists. For cases in which AF duration is shorter than 48 hours, patients are often managed similarly. Recent studies, however, show that many of these patients can benefit from ED cardioversion (EDCV) to achieve normal sinus rhythm with discharge from the ED to home. Potential for Significant Savings In a study published in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, my colleagues and I examined 300 AF patients who came to the ED for care and were screened for timing of symptom onset. EDCV was considered if nursing or physician notes documented onset of AF symptoms within 48 hours of ED presentation in patients younger than 85. The median charges for EDCV patients were $5,460, compared with $23,202 for those admitted with no attempt at cardioversion. Median charges for patients whose final ED rhythm was normal were $5,641; for those remaining in AF, median charges were $30,299. A surprising finding from our study was that the resource savings produced by simply attempting EDCV, regardless of the results, were also significant. Admitted patients remaining in AF following cardioversion attempts still had hospital charges that were $8,628 lower than those admitted with no EDCV attempt. Efficient & Effective The longer a heart remains in AF, the more the atrium becomes conditioned to accept this rhythm. The sooner after the onset of AF...

Yoga Helps Patients Living With AF

A study involving patients with symptomatic paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (AF) suggests that yoga appears to reduce symptomatic AF and non-AF episodes. The analysis also suggests that yoga can help reduce the number of asymptomatic AF episodes and also improves depression and anxiety, in addition to other quality of life parameters. Yoga was also associated with improved and significant decreases in heart rate and blood pressure. Abstract: Journal of the American College of Cardiology, January 31, 2013...

Weekend Vs Weekday Admissions for AF

A review of more than 86,000 discharges with a primary diagnosis of atrial fibrillation (AF) sug­gests that patients admitted on weekends appear to be less likely to undergo a cardioversion procedure and more likely to die resulting from AF when compared with patients admitted on weekdays. Cardioversion procedures were performed in 7.6% of AF patients during weekend admissions, compared with 16.2% for those being admitted during weekdays. The in-hospital mortality odds ratio was 1.23 for AF patients admitted during weekends. Abstract: American Journal of Cardiology, July 15,...
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