Global atrial fibrillation burden on the rise

More than 33 million people worldwide live with atrial fibrillation (AF) and the burden of living with the condition grew nearly 19 percent over the past two decades, a study published online Dec. 17 in Circulation found.

Previous studies from different parts of the world suggested that AF is on the rise, and the researchers determined that “an assessment of the global burden of AF is warranted,” wrote the authors, led by Sumeet S. Chugh, MD, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Chugh and colleagues analyzed 84 population-based studies from 21 global burden of disease regions published between 1990 and 2010 and estimated the worldwide prevalence, incidence of AF as well as the mortality and morbidity related to the condition. The review was part of the Global Burden of Disease 2010 Study, an assessment of data on all diseases and injuries around the world.

They found that AF affected 33.5 million people throughout the world in 2010. The AF burden, defined as disability adjusted life-years (DALYs), increased by 18.8 percent in males and 18.9 percent in females.

Both incidence and prevalence increased between 1990 and 2010. In 1990, the incidence of AF in men was 61 per 100,000 and by 2010, that rate rose to 78 per 100,000. In women, the rate rose from 43 per 100,000 to 60 per 100,000. The prevalence rate in men rose from 570 in 100,000 to 596 per 100,000. For women, prevalence increased from 360 per 100,000 to 373 per 100,000. AF-related death was more common in women, but doubled between 1990 and 2010 in both sexes.

The authors noted because the condition can be asymptomatic, the numbers may be underestimated. They also explained that likely variations in surveillance methods could have impacted their data.

Despite their study’s limitations, Chugh et al argued that their findings send an important message about AF, a condition that costs the U.S. healthcare system alone billions of dollars.

“These findings provide evidence of progressive increases in overall burden, incidence, prevalence and AF-associated mortality between 1990-2010. Systematic, global surveillance of AF is required to better direct prevention and treatment strategies,” they wrote.