July 7, 2009

Atrial fibrillation, hospitalization link

U.S. researchers linked atrial fibrillation to increased hospitalization in heart failure patients.

However, the study, published in European Heart Journal, also suggested atrial fibrillation -- an irregular heart rhythm condition -- was not associated with an increased risk of death in heart failure patients.

Our findings show that the presence of atrial fibrillation in heart failure patients did not increase their risk of death, as has been previously suggested, but did increase the risk of hospitalization due to worsening heart failure, study lead investigator Dr. Mustafa Ahmed of the University of Alabama in Birmingham said in a statement.

The researchers noted atrial fibrillation significantly increased hospitalization due to heart failure only in patients not receiving beta-blocker drugs. These drugs help reduce heart rate, the researchers say and may be useful in reducing the risk of hospitalization due to worsening heart failure.

Ahmed and colleagues matched 487 pairs of heart failure patients with and without atrial fibrillation from the Beta-Blocker Evaluation of Survival Trial. While mortality from all causes occurred in 38 percent of the patients with atrial fibrillation against 37 percent of patients without, over the course of the trial, 44 percent of patients with atrial fibrillation versus 38 percent without were hospitalized for worsening heart failure.