LONDON, June 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Survey Shows Many Doctors Find the Management of Atrial Fibrillation Difficult and Patients are Unaware of the Risks, Complexities and Treatment for This Most Common of Heart Rhythm Disorders

Four leading patient and medical associations announced today the formation of AF AWARE (Atrial Fibrillation AWareness And Risk Education), a joint initiative to highlight and address issues that contribute to the growing burden of atrial fibrillation (AF) worldwide.

AF is a common yet under-recognised and poorly understood abnormal heart rhythm that is associated with poor quality of life, substantial numbers of hospitalisations, increased risk of severe and potentially fatal cardiovascular complications such as stroke, as well as death.

Marking the start of World Heart Rhythm Week, the World Heart Federation (WHF), Atrial Fibrillation Association (AFA), Stroke Alliance For Europe (SAFE), and European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA) have come together to call upon their peers around the world to raise awareness and understanding of AF and its cardiovascular complications, such as stroke.

Atrial fibrillation (AF), is the most common cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) seen by doctors.(1) It is a fast growing public health concern currently affecting an estimated seven million people in the USA and Europe alone and it is expected to double by 2050, reflecting the growing proportion of elderly individuals.1,(2)

Patients with AF, have a substantially lower quality of life than healthy individuals as a result of their condition. If left untreated, they are at higher risk of experiencing stroke or other cardiovascular complications, which can have serious and debilitating consequences said Trudie Lobban, CEO of the AFA. As AF carries a fivefold increase in the risk of stroke, the risk of death or severe morbidity is considerably increased as well. In addition patients who have a stroke and have AF often have a worse prognosis compared to patients without AF.

Results from an AF AWARE international survey of more than 1600 cardiologists and patients in 11 countries, confirm that patients need a better understanding of AF, its consequences and management options.

Despite the nature and risks of AF, one in four patients in this survey said he or she did not understand and could not explain what AF is and only a third were worried or fearful about having AF. Patients indiscriminately rated all risks of complications as high and confirmed the significant impact of AF on their quality of life and ability to conduct day to day activities.

Very few people truly understand the real and significant impact of atrial fibrillation. Said Professor Günter Breithardt, from the WHF There is an urgent need for better information for patients. AF AWARE aims to expose the poor understanding of this complex disease and to help healthcare professionals, patients, policy makers and the general public understand that comprehensive management of AF should address its multiple impacts.

The majority of cardiologists (61%) in the survey said their patients needed more and better information on AF: they rated the quality of patient education materials for AF as inferior to that available for other common cardiovascular diseases, heart attack, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and stroke.

AF patients need much better information about their disease and doctors can play a central role in providing this help. Said Professor Vardas, president-elect of EHRA. These results indicate that AF patients may feel resigned about living with this illness and its complications. World Heart Rhythm Week and AF AWARE are opportunities for us to come together to improve patients' experience of living with AF through awareness and education.


(1) Fuster V et al. ACC/AHA/ESC guidelines for the management of patients with atrial fibrillation. European Heart Journal 2006;27:1979-2030.

(2) Go AS et al. JAMA 2001; 285: 2370-2375.

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