NEW CASES OF AF RISING DRAMATICALLY
The findings of a 20-yearstudy of the inhabitants ofOlmsted County, Minn, showeda sharp rise in new cases of atrialfibrillation (AF). During thestudy, 4618 new cases of electrocardiogram-confirmed AFwere identified. The incidence of new AF,measured in cases per 1000 person-years roseapproximately 20%. Based on these findings,the group estimated that the current incidenceof AF in the United States is approximately 5.1million, not 2.5 million as previously estimated.The investigators projected that, by 2050, thenumber of individuals with AF will increase to12 million if the rate of new AF does not continueto increase. If it does continue to rise, 16million patients could be affected by 2050.
If their estimate of 5.1 million people with AFin the United States is correct and if, as severalstudies have found, about 50% of those do notreceive anticoagulation, it would be reasonableto expect that failure to use anticoagulationwould produce approximately 125,000 strokesper year. Warfarin is very effective for strokeprevention and may reduce the risk by up to83%. Greater awareness of the rise in AF prevalenceand more widespread use of warfarin inappropriate patients have the potential to savethe health care system between $8.1 and$10.5 billion annually.
The authors of the study suggest thatincreasing obesity may account for as much as60% of the increase.
Dr. Garrett is a clinical pharmacist practitioner at Cornerstone Health Care in High Point, NC.