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Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is the commonest cause of valvular heart disease and a common cause of heart failure in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Atrial fibrillation (AF) complicates RHD, precipitates and worsens heart failure and cause unfavourable outcomes. We set out to describe the prevalence, clinical characteristics and outcomes of valvular atrial fibrillation in a cohort of African patients with acute heart failure (AHF).
The sub-Saharan Africa Survey of Heart Failure (THESUS-HF) was a prospective, observational survey of AHF in nine countries. We collected demographic data, medical history and signs and symptoms of HF. Electrocardiograms (ECGs) were done in a standard fashion. AF was defined as either a history of AF or AF on the admission ECG. Using Cox regression models, we examined the associations of AF with all-cause death over 180 days and a composite endpoint of all-cause death or readmission over 60 days.
There were 1 006 patients in the registry. The mean age was 52.3 years and 50.8% were women. AF was present in 209 (20.8%) cases. Those with AF were older (57.1 vs 51.1 years), more likely to be female (57.4 vs 49.1%), had significantly lower systolic (125 vs 132 mmHg) and diastolic (81 vs 85 mmHg) blood pressure (BP), and higher heart rates (109 vs 102 bpm). Ninety-two (44%) AF patients had valvular heart disease. The presence of AF was not associated with the primary endpoints, but having valvular AF predicted death within 180 days.
AF was present in one-fifth of African patients with AHF. Almost half of the AF patients had valvular disease (RHD) and were significantly younger and at risk of dying within six months. It is important to identify these high-risk patients and prioritise their management, especially in SSA where resources are limited.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Journal Article

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