A new study published in the journal Circulation reveals that the number of people who are being hospitalized for irregular heartbeats is rising, leading to increased burden of treatment costs on the US healthcare system.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an irregular heartbeat that can lead to stroke and other heart-related complications. Researchers, analyzing data from almost 4 million hospitalizations for atrial fibrillation in 2001-10, found:
- In-hospital deaths declined, but hospitalizations increased by 23 percent, especially in people over age 65.
- The number of days people were hospitalized didn't change.
But after adjusting for inflation, the average cost of hospitalization rose from $6,410 to $8,439 a 24 percent increase.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality collected the information from more than 1,200 hospitals across 45 states. The records yielded a cross-section of 3.96 million hospitalizations where atrial fibrillation was the primary diagnosis at discharge. At least 2.7 million people were living with AF in the United States in 2010, according to the American Heart Association. Seniors over 65 are the fastest growing age group in the United States, which suggests atrial fibrillation will become a major burden on hospitals. "We must treat atrial fibrillation and its risk factors better in the outpatient setting to prevent hospitalizations and reduce its staggering impact," said Abhishek Deshmukh, M.D., a study author and a cardiologist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.