Atrial fibrillation and female sex

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Abstract

Atrial fibrillation is the most common supraventricular arrhythmia. Its prevalence increases with age and preferentially affects male patients. Over 75 years of age, however, female patients being more prevalent, the absolute number of patients affected is similar between sexes. Despite this, few data are available in the literature concerning sex-related differences in atrial fibrillation patients. The present systematic review therefore considers comorbidities, referring symptoms, quality of life, pharmacological approaches and trans-catheter ablation in female rather than in male atrial fibrillation patients in search of parameters that may have an impact on the treatment outcome. In brief, female atrial fibrillation patients more commonly present comorbidities, leading to a higher prevalence of persistent atrial fibrillation; moreover, they refer to hospital care later and with a longer disease history. Atrial fibrillation symptoms relate to low quality of life in female patients; in fact, atrial fibrillation paroxysm usually presents higher heart rate, leading to preferentially adopt a rate rather than a rhythm-control strategy. Female atrial fibrillation patients present an increased risk of stroke, worsened by the lower oral anticoagulant prescription rate related to the concomitant higher haemorrhagic risk profile. Trans-catheter ablation is under-used in female patients and, on the contrary, they are more commonly affected by anti-arrhythmic drug side effects.

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