Getting to the heart of the problem

04 Apr 2019
Getting to the heart of the problem

More Australians are now going to hospital with a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation (AF) than any other cardiovascular conditions including heart attack and heart failure according to new research from the University of Adelaide’s SAHMRI-based Centre for Heart Rhythm Disorders. 

The research, published in Heart, was led by Celine Gallagher and analysed data from all Australian hospitals across a 21-year period from 1993 to 2013. 

“We’ve demonstrated there’s been a relentless rise in hospitalisations due to AF,” Ms Gallagher said. 

The PhD candidate says the growing number of hospitalisations was seen across all age groups, demonstrating it’s not just related to Australia’s ageing population. 

“Furthermore, the costs associated with AF hospitalisations have grown 479 per cent over the 16-year period leading up to 2014, compared to a 210 per cent increase for hospitalisations due to heart attack and heart failure” she said. 

“Our research also took into account common procedures used to treat AF such as AF ablation. 

“While there’s been a significant increase in the use of this procedure since the beginning of this decade, it doesn’t account for the rise in hospitalisations observed in this study”. 

Ms Gallagher says better outpatient management will significantly reduce the number of AF sufferers returning to hospital because of the condition and could also reduce the number of hospitalisations due to other complications associated with AF including stroke and heart failure. 

“About thirty per cent of all strokes are caused by AF,” she said. 

“Not only that, strokes caused by AF are more likely than other causes to be disabling or even fatal.” 

The research revealed a relative increase of 295 per cent for patients presenting to hospital with AF across the 21-year period of study. Presentations for heart attack and heart failure increased by 73 and 39 per cent respectively in the same period. 

Once population changes were taken into account, the annual rate of increase was 5.5 per cent for AF, 2.2 per cent for heart attack and a negligible change for heart failure.