What is the basis of clinical decisions for long-term management in patients with atrial fibrillation (Afib) (AF)?

Updated: Nov 18, 2019
  • Author: Lawrence Rosenthal, MD, PhD, FACC, FHRS; Chief Editor: Jeffrey N Rottman, MD  more...
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Optimal long-term strategies for AF management should be based on a thoroughly integrated consideration of patient-specific factors and likelihood of success. As a rule, younger patients with more severe symptoms and fewer comorbidities tend to derive greater benefit from a long-term focus on rhythm control. Older patients with structural heart disease (eg, left ventricular hypertrophy, prior myocardial infarction, depressed ejection fraction, atrial dilatation) are less likely to remain in sinus rhythm and are more likely to have serious side effects from antiarrhythmic drugs. In this cohort, most clinicians focus on long-term rate control.

Because of the electrophysiologic and structural remodeling caused by AF, many patients with paroxysmal AF will progress to persistent and long-standing persistent AF. The degree to which this reflects the continuing influence of underlying cardiovascular risk factors as opposed to a direct effect of AF is unknown. Regardless, clinicians need to reevaluate their management strategies frequently, as AF burden and comorbidities increase with time.

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