Atrial fibrillation (AF) impacts performance and horse and jockey safety. Understanding the outcomes of AF identified postrace will better inform regulatory policy.
To investigate the outcomes after episodes of AF identified postrace and determine whether affected horses are at increased risk of additional episodes compared to the general racing population.
Total of 4684 Thoroughbred racehorses.
Race records for Thoroughbred horses racing in Hong Kong from 2007 to 2017 were reviewed. Horses that performed below expectation were examined by cardiac auscultation and ECG. Incidence and recurrence of AF were compared between horses with and without a history of AF and between horses with paroxysmal and persistent episodes using Fisher’s exact test.
There were 96 135 race starts during the study. Atrial fibrillation was identified in 4.9% of horses, with an overall incidence of 2.7 episodes per 1000 starts. The incidence of AF in horses after any previous episode (12.8 per 1000 starts) was higher than for horses with no previous episode (2.4 per 1000 starts; odds ratio [OR], 5.3; 95% confidence interval [CI], 3.8-7.6). Recurrence was seen in 64% of horses previously treated for persistent AF, which was higher than recurrence in horses with paroxysmal AF (23%; OR, 5.9; 95% CI, 1.6-21.2). Median duration between episodes was 343 days (range, 34-1065).
Thoroughbreds are at increased risk of recurrent AF after both paroxysmal and persistent episodes, but the duration of time between episodes varies widely. These findings support a substantial burden of AF among individual Thoroughbred racehorses.