Author(s): Lokanath S1

The past decade has witnessed an extraordinary growth in the knowledge regarding atrial fibrillation. It is a heterogeneous rhythm that appears with several conditions and crosses the path of almost all clinicians. It is the most common sustained cardiac arrhythmia and the third leading cause of death due to cardiovascular diseases. The incidence of atrial fibrillation approximately doubles with each decade of adult life and ranges from 2 or 3 new cases per 1000 population per year between the ages of 55 and 64 years to 35 new cases per 1000 population per year between the ages of 85 and 94 years. Although, the vast majority of patients with atrial fibrillation are relatively asymptomatic, patients can have profoundly limiting symptoms. The initial presentation of atrial fibrillation maybe an embolic complication or exacerbation of heart failure, but most patients complain of palpitations, chest pain, dyspnoea, fatigue, lightheadedness or syncope. For patients with symptomatic atrial fibrillation lasting many weeks, initial therapy maybe anticoagulation and rate control while the long-term goal is to restore sinus rhythm. When cardioversion is contemplated and the duration of atrial fibrillation is unknown or exceeds 48 hours, patients who do not require long-term anticoagulation may benefit from short-term anticoagulation. If rate control offers inadequate symptomatic relief, restoration of sinus rhythm becomes a clear long-term goal. Early cardioversion may be necessary, if atrial fibrillation causes hypotension or worsening heart failure. Experimental studies have explored the mechanisms of the onset and maintenance of the arrhythmia; drugs have been tailored to specific cardiac ion channels; non-pharmacologic therapies have been introduced that are designed to control or prevent atrial fibrillation; and data have emerged that demonstrate a genetic predisposition in some patients.
It is a prospective, observational study performed at Gayatri Medical College Hospital, Visakhapatnam, a multispecialty hospital catering to health needs of patient population belonging mostly to the middle and upper socioeconomic strata.
Of the total number 531 patients, 187 patients were admitted as inpatients and remaining were treated on an outpatient basis. Three hundred and three patients were females averaging to about 57% of patient population. Of the one hundred and eighty seven patients admitted as inpatients, ninety two were females. Of the total three hundred and three females, seventy three patients expired. Sixty two patients lost follow-up among total patients. One third of our patients were older than sixty years of age. Rheumatic heart disease was the most common cause of arrhythmia in females, while ischaemic heart disease was more common in males. More than half of the patients developed heart failure at some stage during their followup.
In this prospective cohort study of young to older ethnic Indians, we clearly demonstrated age was an important determinant for atrial fibrillation, but rheumatic heart disease has increased the prevalence of atrial fibrillation in the non-elderly population. The most common cardiovascular pathologies associated with presence of atrial fibrillation in the general population are hypertension, coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure and valvular heart disease. At a global level, the spectrum of structural heart disease in patients with atrial fibrillation has changed over the last century.