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An epidemiological study of symptomatic paroxysmal atrial fibrillation in northwest Greece

J.A. Goudevenos, J.N. Vakalis, V. Giogiakas, P. Lathridou, C. Katsouras, L.K. Michalis, D.A. Sideris
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/eupc.1999.0059 226-233 First published online: 1 January 1999


Aim Although atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most commonly sustained arrhythmia, information about its incidence in the general population is sparse. Even more sparse is information on an important variety of AF, paroxysmal AF. The aim of this study is to assess the frequency of new cases of symptomatic paroxysmal AF per year (‘incidence’) in a general unselected population and to compare other epidemiological features with chronic AF patients.

Methods and Results Over a 4 year period, we conducted a prospective, population-based survey of cases of AF in a defined geographical area with a known population size stratified for age and sex. Sources of identification were the two hospitals which serve the area and all the primary care settings. Patients with AF of less than 7 days duration were characterized as paroxysmal AF and all others as chronic AF. During the study period we identified 1551 patients with chronic AF (51·7% male, mean age 71±10·4 years and 48·3% females, mean age 73·1±10·8 years) and 443 patients with paroxysmal AF (59·6% male, mean age 59·6±13·3 years and 40·4% female, mean age 65·2±10·1 years). There was no underlying cardiovascular disease in 15·6% and 32·3% of patients with chronic and paroxysmal AF, respectively. The mean annual occurrence of new cases of paroxysmal AF was 6·2/10 000/year, and was higher (P<0·01) for men (7·2/10 000/year) than for women (5·3/10 000/year). The frequency of new paroxysmal AF cases rises with age, reaching a peak at 70–79 years and then declines.

Conclusions We conclude that paroxysmal AF is a relatively common arrhythmia, the occurrence of which increases with age and is more frequent in younger men than in women. Patients with chronic AF are older and more often have underlying heart and other disease than patients with paroxysmal AF.

  • Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation
  • epidemiology