Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a major global public health problem. Observational studies are necessary to understand patient characteristics, management, and outcomes of this common arrhythmia. Accordingly, our objective was to describe the current status of published prospective observational studies of AF.
Methods and results
MEDLINE and EMBASE (to June 2012) and reference lists of eligible studies were searched for English-language prospective observational registries of AF (n ⩾ 100 and follow-up ⩾6 months). Two reviewers independently extracted data. Disagreements were resolved by consensus. Eight prospective studies enrolled a total of 17,924 patients with AF (total 41,306 patient-years of exposure; follow-up 11 months to 9.9 years). The majority of subjects were enrolled in Europe (74%) or North America (21%), and 0.3% had rheumatic AF. The most consistently reported comorbidities were diabetes mellitus (range 5–18%), hypertension (39–68%), heart failure (5–58%), and prior stroke (4–17%). Three studies did not report all the variables necessary to calculate the currently recommended stroke risk assessment score, and no study reported all the variables required to calculate a recently validated bleeding risk score. The most consistently reported management features were oral anticoagulation (32–64%) and aspirin (28–61%) use. Calcium channel blockers were less frequently used than other rate controlling agents, and digoxin was most common in the single study from Africa (63%). Total mortality was reported in all studies, while data on stroke/systemic embolism, hospitalizations, and major hemorrhage rates were not always reported.
Current literature on real-world management of AF is relatively limited with inadequate data to allow detailed comparisons among reports. Data on rheumatic AF and from Africa and the developing world in general are sparse.