Austria is a country with an area of 84.000 square kilometers and approximately 8,5 million inhabitants. It is bordered by the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland and thus considered as a gateway between northern and southern Europe. Austria is known for famous skiing resorts in the Alps, its lovely rural landscape, cities and marvelous culture.Emperor Joseph II. established the General Hospital in Vienna in 1784 as one of the first public hospitals worldwide, thereafter most provinces developed regional health care centers. A large part of Austrian health care facilities was destroyed during the 2nd world war, but most hospitals were rebuilt and extended in the late 20th century. Today the Austrian health system provides universal coverage for a wide range of high-quality care. Moreover our heath system is one of the best performing: In a recent WHO ranking Austria was mentioned as worldwide number 9 according to its performance. Free choice of providers and unrestricted access to all care levels are characteristic features of the system. Currently 10,5% of the nation’s gross domestic product is spent for public health care. Unsurprisingly, population satisfaction is well above EU average.
The first cardiac pacemaker implantation in Austria was performed in 1964 by Professor Fritz Helmer at the University of Vienna. Successively Professor Konrad Steinbach performed the first diagnostic electrophysiologic studies 1982 and the first ablations in Austria 1984. Prof. Steinbach also was one of the founding members of the European Working Group on Cardiac Pacing (EWGCP), with was integrated into the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), before the working groups of Cardiac Pacing and Cardiac Arrhythmias were combined to the European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA) 2004.The working group for arrhythmias of the Austrian Society of Cardiology was founded 1979. Initially it included 8 members, who organized annual meetings, introduced a national pacemaker card and defined criteria for quality control of pacemaker implantations. A first nationwide registry for pacemaker implantation was set up 1975 and for catheter ablation in 1993. The current working group of arrhythmias was founded in 2012 after the fusion of the working groups ''Invasive Rhythmology'' and ''Non-invasive Rhythmology'' of the Austrian Society of Cardiology and includes 51 members.
Pacemaker and ICD implantations are currently performed in 69 dedicated centers in Austria. 2011 an obligatory electronic registry for pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators and loop-recorders was introduced. Herein implantations of 4721 pacemakers (1007 of them MR conditional), 1296 Cardioverter-Defibrillators, 1178 devices for cardiac resynchronization therapy (377 CRT-P and 801 CRT-D) and 504 loop recorders were reported last year.17 Austrian hospitals offer diagnostic electrophysiological studies and catheter ablations as part of their interventional clinical routine. 7 of them are located in Vienna, 3 in Upper Austria, 3 in Lower Austria, 2 in Styria, whereas 1 single center is based in Salzburg, Tirol and Vorarlberg. According to a recent survey a total of 2543 ablations were performed in our country last year with an annual increase of approximately 10% over the past 10 years. The number of complex interventions (ablations of atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia) also increased significantly to a total number of 771 AF and 91 VT ablations in 2013.
The goals of the working group are the promotion and the sponsorship of continuing education as well as of scientific projects on arrhythmias in Austria. Members of the working group organize a number of congresses and meetings for doctors in training and are actively involved in the organization of the annual meeting of the Austrian Society of Cardiology. Moreover the organization emphasizes the implementation of current ESC guidelines for the diagnosis and therapy of heart rhythm disorders. A special focus is given on national characteristics and requirement for the treatment of patients with arrhythmias in Austria.The Austrian working group of arrhythmias currently publishes position papers, comments and recommendations as requested by the executive board of the Austrian Society of Cardiology. It further develops online registries to document the achievements of Austrian doctors on the area of device implantation and catheter ablation. Specifically, an electronic pacemaker, ICD- and loop recorder registry was recently organized together with the Gesundheit Österreich Gesellschaft (GÖG). Furthermore a national electronic registry for catheter ablation is planned to be established in the near future.
1st symposium of the EWGP 1978 in London (Chairman E. Sowton, Co-Chair K. Steinbach)
Symposium of the Austrian WGs for Arrhythmias and Cardiologists of tomorrow 2014 in Salzburg
White Book 2012 and 2013Austrian Society of cardiology EHRA endorsed meetings
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