Aims: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is not always perceived as a serious health threat, but is the most common sustained arrhythmia, with a major impact on morbidity, mortality, and patient quality of life (QoL). A survey was undertaken to examine the level of understanding, perception, and attitudes of the cardiovascular risks associated with AF.
Methods and results: The AF AWARE group (an international coalition of organizations with an interest in AF) conducted an international quantitative survey in 11 countries in 2009, to investigate patients' (n = 825) and cardiologists' (n = 810) perceptions of AF, preferences for communicating information on AF and burden of AF. Both patients and physicians considered AF life-threatening (55 and 43%, respectively). Physicians were more concerned about the risk of stroke and hospitalizations than patients, whereas patients were most concerned about death risk. One in four patients felt unable to explain AF and >33% were worried or fearful about their disease. Many physicians (51%) wanted more patient information with >60% viewing available information as poor/difficult to find. Hospital specialists and GPs were identified as key information sources for patients. Most patients (83%) reported symptoms, yet 75% claimed to be satisfied with AF therapies. Atrial fibrillation patients, often with associated diseases, made an average of nine visits per year to their doctors, who consider AF difficult and time consuming to manage. Patients and physicians rated the QoL impact of AF as moderate to high.
Conclusions: A comprehensive international patient and professional information and support programme on AF is needed to improve management and consequently health outcomes.