Trends in Atrial Fibrillation Incidence Rates within an Integrated Health Care Delivery System, 2006 to 2018

Brent A. Williams, Alanna M. Chamberlain, James C. Blankenship, Elaine M. Hylek, Stephen Voyce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Importance: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, and multiple studies have reported increasing AF incidence rates over time, although the underlying explanations remain unclear. Objectives: To estimate AF incidence rates from 2006 to 2018 in a community-based setting and to investigate possible explanations for increasing AF by evaluating the changing features of incident AF cases and the pool of patients at risk for AF over time. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study included 500684 patients who received primary care and other health care services for more than 2 years through a single integrated health care delivery network in Pennsylvania. Data collection was conducted from January 2003 to December 2018. The base study population had no documentation of AF in the electronic medical record for at least 2 years prior to baseline. Data analysis was conducted from May to December 2019. Main Outcomes and Measures: Incident AF cases were identified through diagnostic codes recorded at inpatient or outpatient encounters. Age- A nd sex-adjusted AF incidence rates were estimated by calendar year from 2006 to 2018 both overall and across subgroups, including according to diagnostic setting (inpatient vs outpatient) and priority (primary vs secondary diagnosis). Results: Among 514 293 patients meeting criteria for the base study population, the mean (SD) age at baseline was 47 (18) years and 282 103 (54.9%) were women; 13 609 (2.6%) met AF diagnostic criteria on or prior to the baseline date and were excluded. Among 500 684 patients free of AF at baseline, standardized AF incidence rates from 2006 to 2018 increased from 4.74 (95% CI, 4.58-4.90) to 6.82 (95% CI, 6.65-7.00) cases per 1000 person-years, increasing significantly over time (P <.001). Incidence rates increased in all age and sex subgroups, although absolute rate increases were largest among those aged 85 years or older. The fraction of incident AF cases among individuals aged 85 years or older increased from 135 of 1075 (12.6%) in 2006 to 451 of 2427 (18.6%) in 2017. Patients with incident AF were more likely over time to have high body mass index (1351 of 3389 patients [39.9%] in 2006-2008 vs 4504 of 9214 [48.9%] in 2015-2018; P <.001), hypertension (2764 [81.6%] in 2006-2008 vs 7937 [86.1%] in 2015-2018; P <.001), and ischemic stroke (328 [9.7%] in 2006-2008 vs 1455 [15.8%] in 2015-2018; P <.001), but less likely to have coronary artery disease (1533 [45.2%] in 2006-2008 vs 3810 [41.4%] in 2015-2018; P <.001). Among 22077 new cases of AF, 9146 (41.4%) were diagnosed as inpatients and 5731 (26.0%) as the primary diagnosis. Incidence rates of AF increased significantly in all diagnostic setting and priority pairings (eg, inpatient, primary: Rate ratio, 1.07; 95% CI, 1.06-1.08; P <.001). Among patients at risk for AF, high BMI and hypertension increased over time (BMI: 71433 of 198245 [36.0%] in 2007 to 130218 of 282270 [46.1%] in 2017; hypertension: 79977 [40.3%] in 2007 to 134404 [47.6%] in 2017). Documentation of short-term ECG increased over time (23297 of 207349 [11.2%] in 2008 to 45027 [16.0%] in 2017); however, long-term ECG monitoring showed no change (1871 [0.9%] in 2007 to 4036 [1.4%] in 2017). Conclusions and Relevance: In this community-based study, AF incidence rates increased significantly during the study period. Concurrent increases were observed in AF risk factors in the at-risk population and short-term ECG use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2014874
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 28 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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