Study Finds Increase in Major CV Events Following the 2011 Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami

The weekly occurrence of heart failure, acute coronary syndrome (including unstable angina and acute MI), stroke, cardio-pulmonary arrest and pneumonia all increased sharply following the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011, according to a study presented on Tuesday as part of the ESC Congress 2012 in Munich.

The study, which was based on ambulance records from the Miyagi prefecture near the epicenter of the earthquake from Feb. 11 to June 30 for each year from 2008 to 2011, found significant increases in the occurrence of heart failure and pneumonia for more than six weeks following the tsunami. Incident increases in stroke and cardio-pulmonary arrest followed the pattern of the first and aftershock seismic peaks.

The study also found an increase in the occurrences of ventricular tachyarrhythmias in patients with implantable cardiac defibrillators, as well as an increase in elevated blood pressure. However, the study authors note that transport disruption following the tsunami impacted delivery of regular medications, such as antihypertensive or antithrombotic drugs, which may have contributed to the increased cardiovascular events. Gender, age and residence area did not significantly affect the occurrences of cardiovascular disease during or following the tsunami.

"To the best of our knowledge this is the first report to describe the mid-term course of major cardiovascular events and pneumonia after a great earthquake in a large population," said Hiroaki Shimokawa, MD, from the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine at Sendai, Japan. "In particular, our findings provide the first evidence that the incidence of heart failure was markedly increased over a long period afterwards."

To learn more about the clinical trials featured at the ESC Congress 2012, visit the CardioSource Meeting Coverage page.

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