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Experts Agree on Common Vocabulary for Atrial Fibrillation

BETHESDA, MD — June 25, 2004 - The American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) have joined together to write a new dictionary of terms and procedures used in the management of patients with atrial fibrillation (AF).

The aim of the new dictionary, or lexicon, is to ensure that researchers and clinicians are speaking the same language when it comes to designing their research projects, compiling their data bases and registries, and managing their patients with AF. It is published today on the Web sites of the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology and will appear in the June 29 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, and the July 21 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“The newly standardized dictionary of AF terms and procedures will get everybody on the same page,” said Martha J. Radford, MD, Chair of the ACC/AHA Task Force on Clinical Data Standards. The Task Force oversees the standardization of the language used in the research and management of common cardiological diseases and has already produced a lexicon for acute coronary syndromes. The ACC/AHA Key Data Elements and Definitions for Measuring the Clinical Management and Outcomes of Patients with Atrial Fibrillation represents the Task Force’s second such effort.

“When we were writing guidelines, developing registries, or designing performance measures, we found that people often used different words, phrases, and concepts to describe the same things. This new document is a common vocabulary of definitions and terms, so that when cardiologists, physicians, or other health care providers design a registry, clinical trial, or clinical data base for use in their practice, they will have a standardized version of the various terms. It’s a library of concepts for use in the care of patients with, in this case, atrial fibrillation,” explained Dr. Radford, associate professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine.

Such agreement on a common vocabulary with common definitions will make it easier to compare the results of different studies and registries, perform meaningful meta analyses, and facilitate measurement for quality improvement programs. It will also improve the lines of communication between researchers, payers, and the public. “This document will make it easier to compare what’s out there. Before we had this lexicon, we were all over the place,” said Robert L. McNamara, MD, Chair of the ACC/AHA Writing Committee for Atrial Fibrillation Clinical Data Standards.

“From now on, when physicians want to characterize their patients, we hope they will use the terms that are set out in these standards to define the patient’s history and characteristics and collect the same information in the same way,” he added.

Definitions have been “all over the map” D. George Wyse, professor of medicine, University of Calgary and a member of the writing committee, said. “People were comparing apples and oranges. But when you are doing quality assurance work and trying to determine whether your hospital or your HMO is looking after patients appropriately, when you check your data base with what’s in the literature, you don’t know whether you are collecting information on the same kind of person or not. So the idea of this document is to set definitions of data standards so that in the future…, if researchers and health care providers accept these standards and use them, we’ll all be talking about the same thing and then it will make true comparison possible.”

Source: The American College of Cardiology

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