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Stockholm, Sweden, Monday 30 August 2010: A growing epidemic of the world’s most common heart rhythm disorder is resulting in an alarming number of hospital admissions in Australia, according to cardiology researchers. A research team led by Christopher Wong, from the University of Adelaide and the Cardiovascular Research Centre at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, found that hospital admissions due to atrial fibrillation had risen by more than 200% over a 15-year period.
Mr Wong presented the findings at the European Society of Cardiology’s Scientific Congress in Stockholm, Sweden. The Congress is the largest annual meeting of doctors and scientists in Europe dedicated to the study of cardiovascular disease. “The increasing trend in hospital admissions due to atrial fibrillation is particularly worrying for health care authorities,” Mr Wong says. “Atrial fibrillation is the most common, sustained heart rhythm disorder in humans, affecting almost one in 10 people over the age of 80. Importantly, left untreated it can have devastating consequences such as stroke and death – more than one in five strokes are due to this heart rhythm disorder.”
The researchers looked at all hospitalizations due to atrial fibrillation in Australia (population 22 million) over a 15-year period from 1993 to 2008. The increase in the number of hospitalizations resulted in the number of days spent in hospital each year by patients with atrial fibrillation increasing from 60,000 to 150,000, despite a decrease in the average length of stay for each admission over the study period. Furthermore, the prevalence of hospitalizations rose by 155%, with the greatest increases in successive age groups. “Our findings highlight the fact that not only have the absolute number of admissions increased significantly, but also the percentage of the population hospitalized for atrial fibrillation is continuing to increase at an alarming rate,” Mr Wong says.
Professor Prashanthan Sanders, an expert on atrial fibrillation and senior author of the study, says the results are a wakeup call for doctors and health care authorities. “There are very few studies that have looked at hospitalization rates across an entire country due to atrial fibrillation, and none in recent years.” Professor Sanders says. “This study highlights the enormous public health burden of atrial fibrillation on hospitals and the need for not only better treatments for this increasingly common condition, but also preventative strategies to stop it occurring in the first place.”
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