Care for Irregular Heartbeat Costs U.S. Billions:
TUESDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- It costs $26 billion a year
to treat U.S. patients with the heart rhythm disorder known as
atrial fibrillation, according to a new study.
That total includes $6 billion for atrial fibrillation care,
$9.9 billion for other cardiovascular risk factors or disease and
$10.1 billion for non-cardiovascular medical problems, the
"Atrial fibrillation places a huge economic burden on health care payers, patients and our country," lead study author Dr. Michael H. Kim, an associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, said in a news release from the American Heart Association. "It is not clear that the country realizes that atrial fibrillation patients are much more likely to have cardiovascular hospitalizations specifically, and more hospitalizations in general."
The study is published in the current issue of the journal
Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
About 3 million American adults have atrial fibrillation, a
number expected to double over the next 25 years, according to
background information in the news release. Atrial fibrillation
increases the risk of stroke and heart attack.
In the study, researchers analyzed 12 months of data collected
from about 89,000 atrial fibrillation patients between 2004 and
2006. Of those patients, nearly 20 percent were newly diagnosed
while 81 percent had existing atrial fibrillation.
Along with the $26 billion annual cost, the researchers also
- Atrial fibrillation patients were hospitalized for any reason
twice as often as people without atrial fibrillation (37.5 percent
versus 17.5 percent) and were three times more likely to have
multiple hospitalizations (11.1 percent versus 3.3 percent).
- Atrial fibrillation patients were hospitalized for
cardiovascular problems four times more often than those without
atrial fibrillation (21.3 percent versus 5.4 percent), and had
multiple cardiovascular-related hospitalizations eight times more
often (4.1 percent versus 0.5 percent).
- Atrial fibrillation patients were more likely than non-atrial
fibrillation patients to die in the hospital (2.1 percent versus
- The average direct health care cost for an atrial fibrillation
patient was $20,670, compared with $11,965 for a non-atrial
"We're not going to impact health care costs or cardiovascular outcomes by just addressing atrial fibrillation itself," Kim said. "The large amount of cardiovascular disease among atrial fibrillation patients appears to worsen outcomes and increase costs. This is a sicker population."
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about
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