Offbeat Rhythms in Dialysis

Atrial fibrillation rates in older dialysis patients have increased

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) If your kidneys are not working properly, you may need to go on dialysis. Both poor kidney function and dialysis have been linked to an offbeat heart rhythm - a problem that seems to be strong in older dialysis patients.

In a recent study, nearly 30 percent of older patients on dialysis experienced atrial fibrillation - a condition in which the heart beats too fast, too slow or with an irregular rhythm.

Despite the high rate of atrial fibrillation, it appears that fewer older dialysis patients are dying from the heart rhythm problem.

"Visit your doctor regularly if you're on dialysis."

"One sixth of U.S. dialysis patients older than 65 years have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation," said Benjamin A. Goldstein, MPH, PhD, of Stanford University School of Medicine, and colleagues in background information to their study.

However, little is known about how many new cases of atrial fibrillation occur in this population, they said.

From their research, Dr. Goldstein and colleagues found that rates of atrial fibrillation are high in older patients starting dialysis.

Out of 258,605 patients, 76,252 (29.5 percent) experienced atrial fibrillation.

From 1995 to 2007, the rate of atrial fibrillation in older dialysis patients grew by 11 percent.

From 1995 to 2008, the rate of death after atrial fibrillation decreased by 22 percent. However, the death rate remained greater than 50 percent in the first year after being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.

The researchers also found ethnic differences in the rate of atrial fibrillation among older dialysis patients, with a higher rate among white patients than among other ethnic groups.

Compared to whites, the rate of atrial fibrillation was:

  • 30 percent lower among African Americans
  • 19 percent lower among Asians
  • 42 percent lower among Native Americans
  • 29 percent lower among Hispanics

The study was published October 2 in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 10, 2012
Last Updated:
October 11, 2012