ESC Releases New Clinical Practice Guidelines For Atrial Fibrillation.



The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) has announced the release of new Clinical Practice Guidelines for atrial fibrillation. These are the first guidelines to be prepared solely by the ESC on this very important topic.

The previous guidelines on atrial fibrillation had been prepared in collaboration with the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, but the  divergence in practice, drug treatments and the regulatory environment compared with the US have now made it necessary to create a European-specific version. The new guidelines were presented at the annual ESC Congress in Stockholm.

Pathology of atrial fibrillation.

Atrial Fibrillation is the most widely spread type of cardiac arrhythmias, affecting more than six million Europeans. The pathological condition develops due to loss of a coordinated contraction of the two upper chambers of the heart (the atria) and the atrial muscle is activated too quickly and simply quivers instead of contracting. Patients suffer from palpitations and other symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue. The condition incurs a five-fold increase in the risk of a stroke if left untreated, and then a doubling of the risk of death from that stroke.

The Guidelines reflect obvious progression in many of the conventional treatments for the condition as well as the most recent techniques to manage it:
• Rate control strategies for patients with permanent atrial fibrillation.
• New risk profiling to identify patients at risk of stroke.
• Availability of arrhythmic drugs with fewer side-effects.
• More specific indications for the use of ablation treatment.
• Upstream therapies that can halt the progression of the condition.

Professor John Camm, Chair of the ESC Task Force and a well-known international expert on arrhythmia at the University of London, commented on the highly detailed Clinical Practice Guidelines, and said, “Atrial Fibrillation has become an epidemic, and we estimate that around 1-2% of the total population are affected. This figure is expected to at least double in line with the demographics of an ageing population because it is particularly prevalent amongst older people. We needed to create up-to-date guidelines because of new drug therapies available, and also because accumulated evidence continuously refines the advice on treatment regimens that give the best outcomes.”