Robert G. Hauser, MD, FACC, FHRS
In June of 2012, the consequences of asymptomatic paroxysmal atrial fibrillation came home to me and my family in a frightening, firsthand experience. My wife, Sally, suffered an acute embolic left middle cerebral artery stroke while we were traveling in Nice, France, where I was scheduled to speak at a medical conference…
“We have long underestimated the pernicious nature of atrial fibrillation. It is another disease that can remain silent until it incubates a blood clot that embolizes to the brain, heart or leg. Clots are like stealth missiles: they can remain undetected until the acute event.”1
In June of 2012, the consequences of asymptomatic paroxysmal atrial fibrillation came home to me and my family in a frightening, firsthand experience. My wife, Sally, suffered an acute embolic left middle cerebral artery stroke while we were traveling in Nice, France, where I was scheduled to speak at a medical conference. In our case, every step of this deeply personal journey was blessed with the perfect alignment of “right time, right caregivers, right treatment.” Sally received thrombolytic therapy within 90 minutes of her first symptom, and fully recovered from this potentially devastating episode. Subsequently, she was found to have infrequent paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, a condition that causes many disabling strokes, and she is taking apixaban, a novel oral anticoagulant.
Unfortunately, too many individuals who suffer strokes and other sequelae of cardiac arrhythmias are left with life-changing disabilities. The memory of our experience reminds me of how far we have come. Still, there are miles to go on this journey, and we need to better understand how to identify patients like Sally who are at significant risk, so that we can prevent acute events and improve outcomes.
The incidence of atrial fibrillation increases with age and about 9% of people over 65 years have some form of atrial fibrillation. The risk factors for atrial fibrillation are hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and heart failure. Alcohol, sleep apnea, and hyperthyroidism also are risk factors. Hypertension accounts for about 14-22% of atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is more common in women, primarily because they live longer.
The challenges ahead are to detect atrial fibrillation before it causes heart failure or stroke and to better understand which patients with infrequent asymptomatic atrial fibrillation should be treated to prevent stroke and other sequelae.
Cardiac Insight is fortunate to have Robert Hauser, MD, as Chair of its Scientific Advisory Board. Dr. Hauser, a leading cardiologist and former President of the Heart Rhythm Society, has provided significant thought contribution and direction to the Cardea SOLO™ product and research initiatives.
Chapter 21 of Heart Stories details the complete story of Sally Hauser’s harrowing experience with acute stroke in Nice, France, as also experienced and shared by Dr. Hauser.
We are pleased to offer our blog readers a complimentary copy of Dr. Hauser’s engaging and insightful book “Heart Stories: About Patients and the great Pioneers who saved them” upon request, limited to our supply availability. Contact Cardiac Insight at (866) 554-3751 or [email protected] and provide your shipping information.
To learn more about atrial fibrillation and obtain patient resources, visit the Heart Rhythm Society at www.hrsonline.org.
1Hauser, Robert G. “Chapter 21.” Heart Stories: about Patients and the Great Pioneers Who Saved Them, by Robert G. Hauser, GeorgiaMae Publishing LLC, 2016, pp. 289–296.