Australia facing epidemic of heart rhythm disorder

3 Sept 2010

Australia has seen a 75% increase in hospital admissions for atrial fibrillation over the last 10 years, according to researchers from the University of Adelaide and the Cardiovascular Research Centre at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Team leader Christopher Wong, who presented the findings at the European Society of Cardiology’s Scientific Congress in Stockholm, Sweden, said, “The increasing trend in hospital admissions due to atrial fibrillation is particularly worrying for health care authorities. 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 — one in five strokes are due to this heart rhythm disorder.”

The researchers looked at all hospitalisations due to atrial fibrillation in Australia (population 22 million) over a 10-year period from 1998 to 2008. The 75% increase in hospitalisations was despite a decrease in the length of stay for each admission. “This highlights the fact that not only have the absolute number of admissions increased significantly, but also the percentage of the population hospitalised 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 wake-up call for doctors and healthcare authorities. “There are very few studies that have looked at hospitalisation rates across an entire country due to atrial fibrillation, and none in recent years. 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,” Professor Sanders says.


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