Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia encountered in adults in the United States, affecting ≈ 3 million people.1 It is an important health risk, linked to increased heart failure, dementia, and mortality. Atrial fibrillation has been the subject of intense research over the past 2 decades. For years, management focused on rate control, anticoagulation, and drug therapy to maintain sinus rhythm for selected patients. Although the pathophysiology remains incompletely understood, substantial advances have been made. New therapies, both pharmacological and interventional, have emerged. Better definition of patients at risk for thromboembolism is being achieved, and new therapies for its prevention are emerging. Catheter ablation is now widely available, and there has been remarkable progress in improving safety and outcomes, despite an incomplete understanding of the mechanisms by which efficacy is achieved. Despite the remarkable therapeutic advances of the past decade, the sheer magnitude of this problem in our aging population makes atrial fibrillation a daunting problem and major concern. At present, atrial fibrillation is estimated to add between 6 and 26 billion dollars to US healthcare costs annually, and this will increase, because the prevalence of atrial fibrillation is expected to more than double over the next 3 decades.1 Further advances that translate into effective prevention are of paramount importance. With this issue, we initiate the Circulation series on Atrial Fibrillation. The series will provide a summary of the current understandings of epidemiology, genetics, pathophysiology, and therapy. We hope that this series will provide a convenient summary and foundation for incorporating the advances to come into the existing knowledge base of clinicians and investigators.
- © 2011 American Heart Association, Inc.