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Estimating the prevalence of atrial fibrillation in a general population using validated electronic health data

Authors Norberg J, Bäckström S, Jansson J, Johansson L

Received 22 August 2013

Accepted for publication 1 October 2013

Published 9 December 2013 Volume 2013:5(1) Pages 475—481

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/CLEP.S53420

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3


Johannes Norberg, Svante Bäckström, Jan-Håkan Jansson, Lars Johansson

Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden


Background: The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of atrial fibrillation (AF) in the general population and to validate an administrative diagnosis register, ie, the National Patient Register (NPR), and an electrocardiography (ECG) database in estimating disease prevalence.
Methods: The study was conducted in a well defined region in northern Sweden (population n=75,945) which consists of one hospital and eleven primary health care centers. Subjects with AF were identified by searching the combined inpatient and outpatient International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-based NPR (ICD-10 code I48) and an ECG database with computer-interpreted AF from January 1, 2004 to December 31, 2010. All identified cases with AF were validated.
Results: AF was confirmed in 2,274 patients. The overall prevalence was 3.0% (3.4% in men and 2.6% in women). AF prevalence rose steadily with age, and was 16.8% in patients aged 75 years and older and 21.9% in patients 85 years and older. Of all patients with validated AF, the NPR identified 93.2%. The ECG database identified an additional 6.8%, of which 81% were over 70 years of age. According to the NPR, the proportion of false positives and false negatives was 3.5% and 6.8%, respectively. The corresponding figure for the ECG database was 11.3% and 9.2%, respectively.
Conclusion: Our study shows a high prevalence of AF, especially among the elderly. Searching the ECG database enhanced the detection of AF. The reliability of the NPR was high, with a relatively low proportion of false positives and negatives.

Keywords: atrial fibrillation, epidemiology, prevalence

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