Atrial Fibrillation Linked to Sudden Cardiac Death


Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), the most common heart arrhythmia affecting up to 5 million Americans, is now linked to an increased risk for sudden cardiac death, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The association was studied in two population cohorts, finding the risk triples for those with incident AFib and doubles after the onset of AFib.  Researchers believe this study confirms AFib should no longer be viewed as “a benign condition.”
More than 15,000 adults ages 45 at 64 at the baseline participated in theAtherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) and Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS).
The incidence of sudden cardiac death was:
  • ARIC: 2.89 per 1,000 person years with AFib versus 1.30 without it
  • CHS: 12 per 1,000 person-years with AFib versus 3.82 without it
Oklahoma Heart Institute cardiac electrophysiologist, Dr. David Sandler, agrees with the researchers’ comments, “Not only does atrial fibrillation predispose to stroke, heart failure, and death, but the arrhythmia per se may increase the risk of death from ventricular tachyarrhythmias. The latter is potentially preventable; to this end, additional research to identify predictors of sudden cardiac death in patients with atrial fibrillation is much needed."
Dr. Sandler notes, “Oklahoma Heart Institute has been a major participant in large clinical trials to help identify the optimal treatment strategy for patients with AFib. For example, the ongoing CABANA Trial is a national trial to help determine whether catheter ablation should be a first line therapy in patients at risk for the sequelae of AFib.”
The studies do not account for asymptomatic cases or those only managed on an outpatient basis. If you have any questions about your AFib, consult with your physician.