Atrial Fibrillation Painful Physically and Financially

Atrial Fibrillation is a common heart disorder

Atrial fibrillation is painful physically and financially. Not only is atrial fibrillation, a common heart problem, hard on the heart, but the wallet too it seems.  Since 1998 to 2010, costs for medical care have doubled from this heart problem.  Researchers are predicting this trend to continue now up to 541,000 by 2020, which would make it a 28% increase since 1998 statistics.

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat that can be caused by many problems in and around the heart.  A patient may have problems with the lower left ventrical not receiving various electrical impulses, or rarer conditions of heart valve problems that cause the fibrillation.  These irregular heartbeats can create dangerous blood clots, heart attack (called a myocardial infarction,) or even stroke.

For a variety of possible theories, atrial fibrillation has been increasing over the decades.  It can sometimes stem from the eyes. If one seems to have some form of recurring damage to their eye’s blood vessels or the kidneys, it may be an indicator of a serious problem with their heart.  Atrial fibrillation is more common in older people, but others with complicated health issues can also develop this serious problem that can cause chest pain and even heart failure.  Doctors are now learning that if there is trouble in the eyes or kidney blood vessels, they had better start looking into heart problems.

About six out of every one thousand people develop microvascular disease related to heart rhythm problems and that number increases to 24 out of 1000 when they have vessel damage in the eyes and kidneys.  Doctors still are not sure as to why this kind of blood vessel problem appears to put people at higher risk for atrial fibrillation. Worsening microvascular disease is another possible trigger for atrial fibrillation.  Although it does seem that these finding were discussed in a medical meeting, it has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, so it is considered preliminary until then.

This financial news is hard enough to fathom due to how much it’s going to cost the US in health care dollars.  But there is good news in newly developed heart pacers and defibrillators.  Over the years these things were quite large, and seeing them in person may shock you, but there is a new heart pacer by medtronic, nicknamed the ‘Smart’ pacer that is developed to help decrease further damage to the heart.  This new pacer is supposed to help cut the risk of permanent atrial fibrillation by 61% compared to other pacemakers out there.  A study that included 1,166 patients concluded that this new device helped avoid major side effect of the heart continually being stimulated, as older pace makers used to do, thus preventing permanent atrial fibrillation occurrences.

Atrial fibrillation is painful physically and financially. Due to this new study that found strong results, changes in medical care seem to point to more people getting pacemakers with the enhanced features that are also in the newer medtronic and EnRhythm devices.  However, more research needs to be done before concluding that more people could benefit from advanced pacemakers.

By Tina Elliott

Medical Press