Journal scan

Irregular heart beat associated with wide range of serious events

Atrial fibrillation is linked to a wider spectrum of serious conditions than previously thought, suggests research led by Oxford University.
Irregular heartbeat

Atrial fibrillation is linked to a wider spectrum of serious conditions than previously thought, suggests research led by Oxford University.

In collaboration with researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, the researchers analysed the results of 104 studies involving nine million participants, 587,867 of whom were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AF).

AF was associated with an increased risk of a range of outcomes, including all-cause mortality, ischaemic heart disease, chronic kidney disease, heart failure and sudden cardiac death.

Absolute risk increases included 6.6 events per 1,000 participant years for chronic kidney disease and 11 events per 1,000 participant years for heart failure; the highest among the outcomes examined.

The researchers said the danger of many cardiovascular events is greater than that of stroke a known risk of AF

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Atrial fibrillation is linked to a wider spectrum of serious conditions than previously thought, suggests research led by Oxford University. 

In collaboration with researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, the researchers analysed the results of 104 studies involving nine million participants, 587,867 of whom were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AF).

Irregular heartbeat
Irregular heartbeat analysis. Photo: Science Photo Library

 AF was associated with an increased risk of a range of outcomes, including all-cause mortality, ischaemic heart disease, chronic kidney disease, heart failure and sudden cardiac death.

Absolute risk increases included 6.6 events per 1,000 participant years for chronic kidney disease and 11 events per 1,000 participant years for heart failure; the highest among the outcomes examined.

The researchers said the danger of many cardiovascular events is greater than that of stroke – a known risk of AF – prompting calls for interventions to reduce the risk of non-stroke outcomes in adults with the condition.

Congestive heart failure

AF was also associated with a two-fold risk of cardiovascular mortality, a 2.3-fold risk of stroke, and a five-fold risk of congestive heart failure.

Further analyses testing the strength of the associations were broadly consistent, the researchers said, suggesting the results are robust. 

Even though the associations cannot indicate causality for non-stroke outcomes, 'there is merit in developing clinical risk prediction models for outcomes such as congestive heart failure,' said lead study author Ayodele Odutayo. 

'Our study could have implications for the prioritisation of public health resources and the development of novel interventions for adults with atrial fibrillation,' he added. 


Odutayo A et al (2016) Atrial fibrillation and risks of cardiovascular disease, renal disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. doi: 10.1136/bmj.i4482

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