Emergency room visits are on the rise for patients with atrial fibrillation, or AFib, according to a recent study published in the Journal of American Heart Association. Researchers found that there has been a 30.7% increase in AFib patients visiting the emergency room from 2007 through 2014. In 2007, there were 411,406 ER visits for AFIB in 2007, but that number has steadily increased each year, reaching 537,801 ER visits in 2014. There was also a 15.7% increase in hospitalizations for the condition, from 288,225 in 2007 to 333,570 in 2014.

The Methodology and Other Findings

Researchers analyzed 3.8 million emergency room visits across the United States within the assigned time period. They found that approximately two out of five patients who visited the ER between those dates were 75 years old or older. They also found that the number of women diagnosed with AFib was slightly higher than men. The overall admission rates for the United States nearly double the admission rates in Europe and Canada for AFib related problems.

This highlights the importance of increased awareness for those groups and concentrating focus on treatment and proactive preventative care. The study cited AFib as “a major public health challenge and socioeconomic burden,” and uncovered that in addition to rising incidences of AFib in the emergency room, the hospital-related costs that patients must bear when admitted for the condition jumped from $7.39 billion in 2007 to $10.1 billion in 2014, a 37% increase.

AFib Co-morbid Conditions

The study also found that many of the patients who went to the emergency room for treatment of their AFib had certain co-morbid conditions that were chronic in nature and potentially caused or exacerbated AFib. These conditions are often associated with AFib, including:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Kidney disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes

These conditions can be predictors of eventually emergency room visits or even hospital admissions due to AFib related issues.

A Call for Change

This study has highlighted several areas that the medical community should focus on to help patients with AFib. By identifying high-risk populations and markers that indicate a high potential for hospitalization, doctors can be aware and alert, educating at-risk patients with information that will help them address the issue before it happens or before it gets out of control. Early intervention is the key to reducing emergency room visits and hospital stays for patients with AFib.

If you or a loved one are living with a heart rhythm disorder such as atrial fibrillation, contact Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A. Dr. Dilip Mathew is Board Certified in Cardiology & Cardiac Electrophysiology and has been serving patients in Sarasota and surrounding cities including Port Charlotte, Venice, Tampa and Sun City Center for over a decade.