Background Little is known about the incidence and clinical characteristics of newly diagnosed atrial fibrillation/flutter (AF) in urban Africans in epidemiological transition.
Methods This observational cohort study was carried out in the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto South Africa. A clinical registry captured detailed clinical data on all de novo cases of AF presenting to the Cardiology Unit during the period 2006–2008.
Results Overall, 246 of 5328 cardiac cases (4.6%) presented with AF (estimated 5.6 cases/100 000 population/annum). Mean age was 59±18 years and the majority were of African descent (n=211, 86%) and/or female (n=150, 61%). Men were more than twice as likely to smoke (OR 2.88, 95% CI 1.92 to 4.04) than women, but women were twice as likely to be obese (OR 1.80, 95% CI 1.28 to 2.52) than men. Lone AF occurred in 22 (8.9%) cases, while concurrent valve disease and/or functional valvular abnormality occurred in 107 cases (44%). Overall, 171 cases (70%) presented with uncontrolled AF (ventricular rate >90 beats/min) with no sex-based differences. Common co-morbidities were any form of heart failure (56%) and rheumatic heart disease (21%). Women with AF were more likely to present with hypertensive heart failure (OR 2.37, 95% CI 1.24 to 4.54) but less likely to present with a dilated cardiomyopathy (OR 0.42, 95% CI 0.23 to 0.76) or coronary artery disease (OR 0.38, 95% CI 0.14 to 1.02) than men. Mean overall CHADS2 score (in 195 non-rheumatic cases) was 1.51±0.91 and, despite a similar age profile, women had higher scores than men (1.73±0.94 vs 1.24±0.78; p<0.0001).
Conclusions These unique data suggest that urban Africans in Soweto develop AF at a relatively young age. Conventional strategies used to manage and treat AF need to be carefully evaluated in this setting.
- atrial fibrillation
- valve disease
- epidemiological transition
- cardiovascular disease
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Funding The Heart of Soweto Study registry was supported by the University of the Witwatersrand and unconditional research grants from Adcock-Ingram, the Medtronic Foundation USA, Servier, Bayer-Schering and BHP Billiton. SS and MJC are supported by the National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the University of Witwatersrand.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.