Atrial fibrillation: thousands of strokes

Atrial fibrillation: thousands of strokes

10,000 strokes preventable annually
05.07.2014

According to a new study, up to 10,000 strokes could be prevented in Germany every year through better treatment and prevention. Above all, the atrial fibrillation, which is one of the most important risk factors, is underestimated.

10,000 strokes a year avoidable

Together with cancer, cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes are among the most common causes of death in Germany. But according to a new study, up to 10,000 strokes per year could be prevented in Germany by better treatment and prevention. As the study by the health insurance company DAK-Gesundheit published on Thursday shows, 9,400 strokes alone could be avoided by more consistent treatment of atrial fibrillation, a cardiac arrhythmia. And another 500 cases could thus be prevented by improved care for people who have already had a near stroke.

Third leading cause of death

Around 270,000 people suffer a stroke in Germany every year. The majority of them are older than 60 years. In most cases, the cause of strokes, which are the third leading cause of death in Germany, are clogged blood vessels, for example due to calcification. But bleeding from the brain can also lead to a stroke. People who survive a cerebral infarction are often severely physically restricted. Symptoms include movement and speech disorders, paralysis, visual disturbances or a drooping corner of the mouth, whereby usually only one half of the body is affected. Since the first few hours can make a decision about life or death or permanent disabilities, it is essential that help is needed as soon as possible.

Atrial fibrillation can trigger a stroke

According to the DAK report, which was prepared by the Berlin IGES Institute, stroke prevention can be significantly improved in 60 percent of patients with atrial fibrillation. This disease is one of the most common cardiac arrhythmias. Symptoms that can occur include shortness of breath, rising heat in the head, palpitations and a feeling of pressure in the chest. Furthermore, an uncontrolled racing heart can occur in the atria. The risk factors for atrial fibrillation include old age, existing heart diseases, high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, diabetes and obesity. Atrial fibrillation is only discovered in about a third of those affected. However, only every second patient receives suitable medication when diagnosed. Herbert Rebscher, head of the DAK, explained that if atrial fibrillation was detected and treated correctly in four out of five patients, thousands of first-time strokes could be avoided.

Better supply of medication

According to this, many cases could also be avoided through better medication for patients with near-stroke. In Germany, around 84,000 patients with a first-time near-stroke, a so-called transient ischemic attack (TIA), are treated in the hospital every year. Symptoms are the same as those associated with a cerebral infarction due to the occlusion of a blood vessel in the brain, but they resolve within 24 hours. However, those affected are particularly at risk of suffering a real stroke later. According to the report, around 500 strokes per year could be avoided if the supply of medication was improved in around a quarter of patients with near-stroke.

430 million euros for preventable strokes

Experts estimate that approximately 43,000 euros in life-long treatment costs per stroke patient. Accordingly, a total of 430 million euros have to be raised for the treatment of the approximately 10,000 avoidable strokes. Against this background, the DAK demands “more room for maneuver” for the health insurance companies. So far, due to data protection regulations, they could only respond to patients or doctors to potential shortages of care to a very limited extent, even though they have diagnostic data. (ad)

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Video: How ATRIAL FIBRILLATION increases RISK of STROKE