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Clin Res Cardiol. 2011 Oct;100(10):897-905. doi: 10.1007/s00392-011-0320-5. Epub 2011 May 1.

Management of atrial fibrillation by primary care physicians in Germany: baseline results of the ATRIUM registry.

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Klinik und Poliklinik für Allgemeine und Interventionelle Kardiologie, Universitäres Herzzentrum Hamburg, Germany.



In contrast to surveys in cardiologist settings, presentation and management of atrial fibrillation (AF) in primary care patients is less well studied.


The prospective ATRIUM (Outpatient Registry Upon Morbidity of Atrial Fibrillation) collected data from patients with AF seen by 730 physicians representing a random sample of all primary care physicians in Germany. ATRIUM enrolled 3,667 patients (mean age, 72 ± 9 years; 58% male, mean CHADS(2) score 2.2 ± 1.3), 994 (27.1%) with paroxysmal, 944 (25.7%) with persistent or long-standing persistent and 1,525 (41.6%) with permanent AF (no AF type was specified in 204 patients). Mean duration since initial diagnosis of AF was 61 ± 66 months (median 42, interquartile range 14-88). Reported symptoms included palpitations (43%), shortness of breath (49%), fatigue (49%), dizziness (37%) and angina (20%). Most common concomitant conditions were hypertension (84%), heart failure (43%), coronary artery disease (345%), diabetes (35%) and chronic kidney disease (20%). Prior myocardial infarction was present in 11% of patients, prior stroke in 10% and prior transient ischemic attack in 10%. Antithrombotic medication was used by 93% of the patients (oral anticoagulants, 83%). Rate control therapy was reported in 75% and rhythm control therapy in 33%, often added to rate control. Drugs for rhythm and rate control included ß-blockers (75%), calcium antagonists (15%), digitalis (29%), sodium channel blockers of type IA (quinidine, 1.0%) or IC (flecainide or propafenone, 5%), and potassium channel blockers including amiodarone (11%). In the year prior to enrollment, 46% of the patients had been cardioverted (23% by drugs, 22% electrically), catheter ablation had been performed in 5%, and 10% received a pacemaker or defibrillator. A high proportion (44%) of the patients were hospitalized in the year prior to enrollment.


Patients with AF managed in primary care often receive guideline-conforming therapy including antithrombotic therapy, rate control and rhythm control (numbers given above). Despite this apparent adherence, almost half of the patients were hospitalized in the year prior to enrollment, suggesting that the therapies applied do not stabilize patients sufficiently to keep them out of hospital.

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