Background: Limited data exist on the burden and relationship of cardiovascular (CV) hospitalization to mortality after newly diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AF).
Methods: Using a 20% sample of nationwide Medicare Part A and B claims data, we performed a retrospective cohort study of Medicare beneficiaries with newly diagnosed AF (2004-2008). Cox proportional hazards time-varying exposures were used to determine the risk of death among patients with CV hospitalization after AF diagnosis.
Results: Of 228,295 patients (mean age 79.6 ± 7.4 years, 56% female), 57% had a CV hospitalization after diagnosis of AF (41% in the first year). The most common primary CV hospitalization diagnoses were AF/supraventricular arrhythmias (21%), heart failure (19%), myocardial infarction (11%), and stroke/transient ischemic attack (7.7%). Incidence rates per 1,000 person-years among patients with and without CV hospitalization were 114 and 87, respectively, for all-cause mortality. After adjustment for covariates and time to CV hospitalization, the hazard of mortality among newly diagnosed AF patients with CV hospitalization, compared with those without CV hospitalization, was higher (hazard ratio 1.22, 95% CI 1.20-1.24).
Conclusions: Cardiovascular hospitalization is common in the first year after AF diagnosis. Atrial fibrillation, heart failure, myocardial infarction, and stroke/transient ischemic attack account for half of primary hospitalization diagnosis. Cardiovascular hospitalization is independently associated with mortality, irrespective of time from diagnosis to first hospitalization, and represents a critical inflection point in survival trajectory. These findings highlight the importance of CV hospitalization as a marker of disease progression and poor outcomes. Efforts to clarify the determinants of hospitalization could inform interventions to reduce admissions and improve survival.