Atrial fibrillation is a disorder affecting about 2.3 million Americans and over 40 million people worldwide.
The major risk associated with atrial fibrillation is a significantly increased likelihood of stroke. During atrial fibrillation, the heart’s two small upper chambers (the atria) quiver instead of beating effectively. Blood isn’t pumped completely out of them, so it may pool and clot. If a piece of a blood clot in the atria leaves the heart and becomes lodged in an artery in the brain, a stroke results. About 15 percent of strokes occur in people with atrial fibrillation.
About 0.95% of the population suffer from atrial fibrillation. The likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation increases significantly with age. The chart1 below indicates the prevalence of atrial fibrillation in different age groups.
Atrial fibrillation can generally be cured by performing the Cox-Maze procedure. However this procedure requires open heart surgery and is not performed on many patients suffering from atrial fibrillation unless they require open heart surgery for another reason (such as heart valve replacement) due to the risk factors associated with it.
Kardium is developing a percutaneous ablation device for the treatment of atrial fibrillation.
1. Go AS, Hylek EM, Phillips KA, et al. Prevalence of diagnosed atrial fibrillation in adults. JAMA. 2001; 285:2370-2375.