Factors Associated With the Epidemic of Hospitalizations Due to Atrial Fibrillation
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Recent reports have described that hospitalizations for atrial fibrillation (AF) are continuing to increase. Given that hospitalizations are responsible for most of the economic burden associated with AF, the aim of this study was to characterize the impact of age and how changing procedural practices may be contributing to the increasing rates of AF hospitalizations. The annual age- and gender-specific incidence of hospitalizations for AF, electrical cardioversions, electrophysiologic studies, and radiofrequency ablation procedures in Australia were determined from 1993 to 2007 inclusive. Over this 15-year follow-up period spanning almost 300 million person-years, a total of 473,501 hospitalizations for AF were identified. There was a relative increase in AF hospitalizations of 203% over the study period, in contrast to an increase for all hospitalizations of only 71%. Whereas the gender-specific incidence of hospitalizations remained stable, the age-specific incidence increased significantly over the study period, particularly in older age groups. AF hospitalizations associated with electrical cardioversions decreased from 27% to 14% over the study period. Electrophysiologic studies and radiofrequency ablation procedures contributed minimally to the overall increase in AF hospitalizations observed. In conclusion, in addition to the growing prevalence of AF because of the aging population, there is an increasing age-specific incidence of hospitalizations for AF, particularly in older age groups. In contrast, changing procedural trends have contributed minimally to the increasing number of AF-associated hospitalizations. Greater attention to older patients with AF is required to develop strategies to prevent hospitalizations and contain the growing burden on health care systems.
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