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Aging Clin Exp Res. 2012 Oct;24(5):517-23. doi: 10.3275/8408. Epub 2012 May 8.

Characteristics, management and prognosis of elderly patients in the Euro Heart Survey on atrial fibrillation.

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  • 1Unit of Gerontology and Geriatrics, Department of Critical Care Medicine and Surgery, University of Florence and Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Careggi, Florence, Italy.



Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most frequent sustained arrhythmia of elderly patients, in whom it determines an increase in morbidity and mortality. Aim of this study was to assess age-related differences in the characteristics, management and prognosis of patients with AF in European cardiology practices.


The Euro Heart Survey on AF was an observational study sponsored by the European Society of Cardiology. Patients were enrolled between 2003 and 2004 in 182 hospitals of 35 countries. For the purposes of this study, they were categorized into three age-groups: <65 (n=2124), 65-80 (n=2534) and >80 years (n=671). Follow-up was closed in 2005.


Compared with general population estimates, patients >80 years were underrepresented in the Euro Heart Survey. The oldest patients were less likely to be enrolled by university or specialized centers, to receive extensive diagnostic testing, and to receive oral anticoagulation despite a worse stroke risk profile. Furthermore, the oldest patients less often received rhythm control therapy, even when presenting with palpitations and non-permanent AF. During 1 year follow-up, elderly patients more often suffered a myocardial infarction, new onset heart failure and major bleedings. They had higher all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.


Elderly patients with AF are less often referred to the cardiologist and, based on current guidelines, are inadequately studied and treated, compared to younger counterparts. Education on evidence- based management and the design of randomized controlled trials specifically targeting the elderly, should improve the management and prognosis of this frail segment of the AF population.

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