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Open Access Research article

Family history as a risk factor for recurrent hospitalization for lone atrial fibrillation: a nationwide family study in Sweden

Bengt Zöller1*, Henrik Ohlsson1, Jan Sundquist12 and Kristina Sundquist12

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Primary Health Care Research, CRC, Skåne University Hospital, Building 28, Floor 11, Jan Waldenströms gata 35, Malmö, S-205 02, Sweden

2 Stanford Prevention Research Center, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA

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BMC Cardiovascular Disorders 2012, 12:121  doi:10.1186/1471-2261-12-121

Published: 10 December 2012

Abstract

Background

Although the heritability of atrial fibrillation (AF) has been determined, the relevance of family history of AF for the likelihood of recurrent hospitalization for AF is unknown. The aim of this nationwide study was to determine whether family history of AF is a risk factor of recurrent hospitalization for lone AF (LAF), i.e., AF with unknown etiology. The familial risk for first time LAF hospitalization was also determined and compared to the risk of recurrent hospitalization for LAF.

Methods

We examined whether family history of AF is a risk factor for recurrent hospitalization for LAF in the whole Swedish population. We linked Multigeneration Register data on individuals aged 0–60 years to Hospital Discharge Register data for the period 1987–2009 to compare LAF recurrent hospitalization risk among individuals with and without parental or sibling history of AF. We calculated hazard ratios (HRs) to determine the familial HR of recurrent hospitalization for LAF. Odds ratios (OR) were calculated for familial risk of first time LAF hospitalization.

Results

The risk of recurrent LAF hospitalization was 1.23 (95% CI 1.17-1.30) for individuals with affected parents compared to 1.30 (95% CI 1.22-1.38) for those with affected siblings. After 10 years of follow up 50% of those without and 60% of those with family history had recurrent hospitalization for LAF. The risk of recurrent LAF hospitalization in individuals with two affected parents was 1.65 (95% CI 1.44-1.90). There was an interaction between age and family history, with family history having a weaker effect on LAF hospitalization risk in older age groups. The OR for first time LAF hospitalization was 2.08 (95% CI 2.02-2.15) for offspring with affected parents and 3.23 (95% CI 3.08-3.39) for individuals with affected siblings.

Conclusions

Family history of AF is a novel risk factor for recurrent LAF hospitalization. The higher recurrence hospitalization risk in multiplex families and younger individuals suggests a genetic contribution. However, the familial risk for recurrent LAF hospitalization was much lower than the risk for first time LAF hospitalization, suggesting that familial and possibly genetic factors are more important for first time LAF hospitalization than recurrent LAF hospitalization.

Keywords:
Atrial fibrillation; Family history; Risk factors; Genetics