The association, which specialises in the treatment and prevention of abnormal heart rhythms through medical therapies and pacing devices, is Europe's leading organisation in electrophysiology, and one of five associations of European Society of Cardiology.
EHRA Europace 2011 will take place on 26-29 June, and, says the EHRA President Professor Panos E Vardas, "will be the most important in the 35-year history of Europace".
The most common disorder of the heart's rhythm is atrial fibrillation, a condition in which heart beat 'flutters' rather than beats at regular intervals. And it is atrial fibrillation which specialists in EHRA have recently described as reaching epidemic proportions. Prevalence is 'soaring', said EHRA, because people are living to an older age and with more risk factors for heart disease. Indeed, EHRA estimates that up to 2% of the general population currently suffers from atrial fibrillation, and prevalence is expected to double over the next two or three decades.
While many cases of atrial fibrillation are symptom-free, the condition still carries a greatly increased risk of stroke (up to seven-fold) and of sudden cardiac death (two-fold). The most common early symptoms are palpitations, fainting and chest pain. However, when the large chambers of the heart which pump blood around the body (known as the ventricles) go into a state of fibrillation, the result can be catastrophic as they lose their pumping action and fail to deliver oxygen to the brain.
Many of the studies of new therapies designed to treat atrial fibrillation and other heart rhythm disorders have been reported at previous Europace congresses, and their implementation in everyday practice is recommended in European guidelines. Medical treatments aim to slow heart rate or restore heart rhythm to normal. The latter may also be helped by the use of devices - such as pacemakers - which restore a regular heart rhythm using an electrical current - known as 'electrocardioversion'.
New developments to be reviewed at EHRA Europace 2011 include new technologies in cardiac resynchronisation therapy, guidelines for treating atrial fibrillation and strategies to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death.