Randomized trial of rate-control versus rhythm-control in persistent atrial fibrillation: the Strategies of Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation (STAF) study

Jörg Carlsson, Sinisa Miketic, Jürgen Windeler, Alessandro Cuneo, Sebastian Haun, Stefan Micus, Sabine Walter, Ulrich Tebbe
Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2003 May 21, 41 (10): 1690-6

OBJECTIVES: This study was designed to compare two treatment strategies in patients with atrial fibrillation(AF): rhythm-control (restoration and maintenance of sinus rhythm) and rate-control (pharmacologic or invasive rate-control and anticoagulation).

BACKGROUND: Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia. It is unclear whether a strategy of rhythm- or rate-control is better in terms of mortality, morbidity, and quality of life.

METHODS: The Strategies of Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation (STAF) multicenter pilot trial randomized 200 patients (100 per group) with persistent AF to rhythm- or rate-control. The combined primary end point was a combination of death, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, cerebrovascular event, and systemic embolism.

RESULTS: After 19.6 +/- 8.9 months (range 0 to 36 months) there was no difference in the primary end point between rhythm-control (9/100; 5.54%/year) and rate-control (10/100; 6.09%/year; p = 0.99). The percentage of patients in sinus rhythm in the rhythm-control group after up to four cardioversions during the follow-up period (rate-control group) was 23% (0%) at 36 months. Eighteen primary end points occurred in atrial fibrillation; only one occurred in sinus rhythm (p = 0.049).

CONCLUSIONS: The STAF pilot study showed no differences between the two treatment strategies in all end points except hospitalizations. These data suggest that there was no benefit in attempting rhythm-control in these patients with a high risk of arrhythmia recurrence. It remains unclear whether the results in the rhythm-control group would have been better if sinus rhythm had been maintained in a higher proportion of patients, as all but one end point occurred during AF.

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