LONDON, November 23, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- The lives of thousands of patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) could be at risk due to poor diagnosis, failure to follow treatment guidelines and lack of quality information for patients suffering from this debilitating heart condition, warns a report published today by the AF AWARE partnership. The report argues that poor diagnosis and treatment of AF may lead to increased risk of hospitalization, stroke and other cardiovascular complications, as well as to unnecessary costs to individuals and to healthcare systems in Europe. These findings come at a time when experts are meeting in London to exchange insights about the effective management of AF, at the EuropeAF conference. The findings have prompted an urgent call from the AF AWARE partnership for European-wide improvements.
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Six million people across Europe are affected by AF, making it the most common cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm). While common symptoms include palpitations, shortness of breath and dizziness, some patients with AF experience no symptoms. AF increases a person's risk of stroke by four to five fold.
"AF is a serious, progressive and chronic disease, which can have devastating consequences on patients and healthcare systems" said Professor Günter Breithardt, spokesperson for the World Heart Federation. "This report highlights missed opportunities to manage AF more effectively, saving costs to European healthcare systems and most importantly, saving patients' lives."
The report reveals inconsistencies in adherence to treatment guidelines, inadequate patient resources, and a lack of country-level estimates of AF incidence and prevalence, which raises concerns that AF may be vastly underdiagnosed. This may hinder effective planning within national healthcare systems.
The report highlights that AF may cost the European Union EUR10 billion per year, based on a French estimate of a total average healthcare costs per year of EUR3,220 per AF patient. However, costs could be greatly reduced through the use of screening tools in primary care. As a study from the UK indicated, opportunistic screening of primary care patients can cost approximately GBP200 per patient, but is likely to lead to cost savings, avoiding more expensive secondary care.
The report also highlights substantial costs related to loss of work due to sickness absence, loss of productivity while at work and the need for early retirement. In Italy and Germany, these indirect costs have been estimated at over EUR3,000 per AF patient per year, while in the Netherlands, Greece and France these costs are in the hundreds of euros for each patient. The result is increased pressure on individuals with AF, their caregivers, employers, as well as the healthcare and welfare systems.
In response to the report, the AF AWARE partnership, led by the World Heart Federation and the Stroke Alliance for Europe, is calling for immediate action in four areas:
1. Wider availability and use of disease registries, to get a more accurate estimate of AF prevalence and assess the true burden of the disease 2. More educational tools on interpreting and applying treatment guidelines to country-specific needs 3. An assessment of clinician training needs, patient information gaps and treatment preferences 4. Quality patient materials, enabling patients to become true partners in making treatment decisions, with appropriate support from their clinician
"AF is a growing public health concern, with prevalence set to double by 2050" said Dr Markus Wagner, President, Stroke Alliance for Europe. "The AF AWARE partnership is calling for urgent steps to be taken now to improve care for AF patients in Europe and reduce the physical, psychological and economic impact of this disease."
The activities of the AF AWARE Group are supported through an educational grant by sanofi-aventis
Notes to Editor
About Atrial Fibrillation (AF)
AF results from abnormal electrical activity in the upper chambers of the heart (atria), leading to an irregular heart rhythm which prevents the blood from efficiently being pumped toward the rest of the body. Common symptoms of AF include palpitations (a rapid, irregular, "flopping" movement or pounding sensation in the chest), shortness of breath, dizziness and feeling of heaviness in the chest. Age, obesity, hypertension, myocardial infarction (MI), congestive heart failure (CHF) and valvular heart diseases put patients at increased risk of developing AF and AF itself worsens the prognosis of patients with risk factors for cardiovascular diseases such as stroke or myocardial infarction.,
The AF AWARE (Atrial Fibrillation AWareness And Risk Education) campaign dedicated to gaining greater recognition of atrial fibrillation (AF) as a major international public health concern through exposing current misperceptions of the condition and focusing attention on the realities of the disease. The campaign calls for urgent steps to be taken to improve the diagnosis and care of patients with AF and the prevention of associated cardiovascular conditions. AF AWARE was launched in 2009 by the World Heart Federation, the Stroke Alliance For Europe, the Atrial Fibrillation Association and the European Heart Rhythm Association. It is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from sanofi-aventis.
About the "Atrial Fibrillation in Europe: How AWARE are you?" report
The report was authored by independent health economist Leela Barham, on commission of the Stroke Alliance for Europe (SAFE) and the World Heart Federation and funded by an unrestricted grant from sanofi aventis. The study was initiated in response to a perceived lack of awareness of AF and a lack of comparable information and data across Europe. The research involved an English-language literature review of relevant publications between 2005 and 2010, as well as a survey of member organizations of the World Heart Federation and the Stroke Alliance for Europe (SAFE) between April and September 2010.
About the World Heart Federation
The World Heart Federation is dedicated to leading the global fight against heart disease and stroke with a focus on low- and middle-income countries via a united community of more than 200 member organizations. With its members, the World Heart Federation works to build global commitment to addressing cardiovascular health at the policy level, generates and exchanges ideas, shares best practice, advances scientific knowledge and promotes knowledge transfer to tackle cardiovascular disease - the world's number one killer. It is a growing membership organization that brings together the strength of medical societies and heart foundations from more than 100 countries. Through our collective efforts we can help people all over the world to lead longer and better heart-healthy lives. http://www.worldheart.org
About the Stroke Alliance for Europe (SAFE)
The Stroke Alliance for Europe is the leading European patient organisation solely concerned with helping everyone affected by stroke in Europe. Our vision is to have a world where there are fewer strokes, and all those touched by stroke get the help they need.
We work towards all patients in Europe with stroke having access to a continuum of care, from prevention and risk identification, through emergency response to organised stroke units in the acute phase, to appropriate rehabilitation and secondary prevention by 2015.
Every 20 seconds someone in Europe has a stroke. A stroke does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone at any point in their life. Strokes are sudden and their consequences can be devastating.
About Atrial Fibrillation Association (AFA)
Atrial Fibrillation Association is an international organisation which provides information, support and access to established, new or innovative treatments for Atrial Fibrillation (AF).
AFA aims to:
1. To provide support and information on Atrial Fibrillation to those affected by this condition 2. To advance the education of the medical profession and the general public on the subject of Atrial Fibrillation 3. To promote research into the management of Atrial Fibrillation
AFA-International aims to ensure that anyone presenting symptoms of AF receives the correct diagnosis, the appropriate treatment, informed support and sign posting to an appropriate medical professional.
 Barham, L. Atrial Fibrillation in Europe: How AWARE are you?, November 2010
 PA Wolf, RD Abbott and WB Kannel. Atrial fibrillation as an independent risk factor for stroke: the Framingham Study. Stroke 1991;22;983-988. URL: http://stroke.ahajournals.org/cgi/reprint/22/8/983 - Last accessed: 27.10.2010
 The Task Force for the Management of Atrial Fibrillation of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), Guidelines for the management of atrial fibrillation, European Heart Journal (2010) 31, 2369-2429. URL: http://www.escardio.org/guidelines-surveys/esc-guidelines/GuidelinesDocu... /guidelines-afib-FT.pdf - last accessed: 27.10.2010
 Benjamin E.J. et al., Impact of Atrial Fibrillation on the Risk of Death: The Framingham Heart Study. Circulation 1998;98:946-952
 Benjamin E.J. et al., Prevention of atrial fibrillation: report from a national heart, lung, and blood institute workshop. Circulation 2009;119(4): 606-618
 Wachtell, K. et al., Angiotensin II receptor blockade reduces new-onset atrial fibrillation and subsequent stroke compared to atenolol, Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2005;45(5):712-719
SOURCE: AF Aware
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