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Clinical Articles, Lead Article

Australian AF admissions reach epidemic levels

The National Stroke Foundation of Australia is this year, 2011, aiming to save 110,000 people from stroke-induced death and disability over a 10-year period. The foundation is at the forefront of educating the public about the link between atrial fibrillation and risk of stroke, as well as promoting greater awareness among healthcare professionals.

According to a recent announcement there is a growing epidemic of atrial fibrillation (AF) resulting in a rising number of hospital admissions in Australia. A team of cardiology researchers from the University of Adelaide and the Cardiovascular Research Centre at the Royal Adelaide Hospital have found that over a 10-year period from 1998-2008, hospital admissions in Australia resulting from AF rose by almost 75%.

wong2The findings were initially announced at last year’s European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Scientific Congress in Stockholm, Sweden, by Chief Investigator Christopher Wong, final-year medical student and soon-to-be Rhodes scholar. Using data obtained from both the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the researchers found that over the period in question the number of yearly admissions rose from 27,245 to 47,164 – an average increase of 6.8% per annum. AF as a percentage of all hospitalizations also increased from 0.48 to 0.60%.<sup>1</sup>

Overall, the proportion of individuals hospitalized with AF and aged >75 years rose from 24 to 27% in men and from 47 to 51% in women during this period. There was an increase in overall time spent hospitalised for AF, in spite of a decrease in the average length of each stay. The average length of stay fell for men from 2.8 to 2.7 days and from 4.0 to 3.5 days in women. Despite this decrease, the increase in AF hospitalisations resulted in a 74 and 73% increase in the total number of hospitalization days for AF respectively for both sexes.

Wong asserts that the team’s findings should be a cause for concern to healthcare authorities, showing that “not only have the absolute number of admissions increased significantly, but also the percentage hospitalised for atrial fibrillation is continuing to increase at an alarming rate”. As well as its commonality, Wong highlighted the links between AF and life-threatening conditions such as stroke, asserting that “one in five strokes are due to this heart rhythm disorder”.[2]

Professor Prashanthan Sanders, senior author of the study, has suggested there is a paucity of such broad-scale epidemiological studies into national hospitalisation figures for AF. He describes the results as a wake-up call for doctors and health care authorities: “There are very few studies that have looked at hospitalisation rates across an entire country due to atrial fibrillation, and none in recent years. This study highlights the enormous public health burden of atrial fibrillation on hospitals and the need for not only better treatments for this increasingly common condition, but also preventative strategies to stop it occurring in the first place”.


  1. Nation-wide trends for atrial fibrillation in Australia: 1998-2008, ESC Abstract (2010) Access online:
  2. Spike in heart disorder hospital admissions raises health care concerns, ESC Press Release (20 Aug 2010) Access online:

Published on: January 13, 2011

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  • ArrhythmiaAlliance
  • Stars
  • Anticoagulation Europe
  • Atrial Fibrillation Association

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