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Estimated prevalence of undiagnosed atrial fibrillation in the United States

This paper–written with co-authors Mintu P. Turakhia, Katalin Bognar, Jeffrey Trocio, Younos Abdulsattar, Daniel Wiederkehr, and Dana P. Goldman–is now up at PLOS One.  The study abstract is pasted below.

Introduction

As atrial fibrillation (AF) is often asymptomatic, it may remain undiagnosed until or even after development of complications, such as stroke. Consequently the observed prevalence of AF may underestimate total disease burden.

Methods

To estimate the prevalence of undiagnosed AF in the United States, we performed a retrospective cohort modeling study in working age (18–64) and elderly (≥65) people using commercial and Medicare administrative claims databases. We identified patients in years 2004–2010 with incident AF following an ischemic stroke. Using a back-calculation methodology, we estimated the prevalence of undiagnosed AF as the ratio of the number of post-stroke AF patients and the CHADS2-specific stroke probability for each patient, adjusting for age and gender composition based on United States census data.

Results

The estimated prevalence of AF (diagnosed and undiagnosed) was 3,873,900 (95%CI: 3,675,200–4,702,600) elderly and 1,457,100 (95%CI: 1,218,500–1,695,800) working age adults, representing 10.0% and 0.92% of the respective populations. Of these, 698,900 were undiagnosed: 535,400 (95%CI: 331,900–804,400) elderly and 163,500 (95%CI: 17,700–400,000) working age adults, representing 1.3% and 0.09% of the respective populations. Among all undiagnosed cases, 77% had a CHADS2 score ≥1, and 56% had CHADS2 score ≥2.

Conclusions

Using a back-calculation approach, we estimate that the total AF prevalence in 2009 was 5.3 million of which 0.7 million (13.1% of AF cases) were undiagnosed. Over half of the modeled population with undiagnosed AF was at moderate to high risk of stroke.

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