Epidemiology and Terminology

Atrial fibrillation is the most commonly seeing arrhythmia in clinical practice.  It increases in prevalence with age, and affects up to 5% of the population older than 69 years, and 8% of the population older than 80 years.  It is slightly more prevalent in men than in women, and is responsible for significant increase in morbidity and mortality.  It is associated with a 1.5- to 1.9- fold higher risk of death, which may be due to thrombo-embolic diseases, such as stroke, or hemodynamic dysfunction.

Different terminologies have been used over the past years to describe atrial fibrillation.  It can be referred to as lone afib, paroxysmal, or sustained which can be further divided into long standing or permanent.  Lone atrial fibrillation applies to individuals younger than 60 years of age, who do not demonstrate clinical and echocardiographic evidence of cardiopulmonary disease.  Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation implies that the arrhythmia has been lasting for less than seven days, while sustained is used if it persists beyond one week.  Finally, we can refer to it as long standing if it persists beyond a year, and as permanent if it failed cardioversion.


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