Early and comprehensive management of atrial fibrillation: executive summary of the proceedings from the 2nd AFNET-EHRA consensus conference 'research perspectives in AF'

Paulus Kirchhof, Jeroen Bax, Carina Blomstrom-Lundquist, Hugh Calkins, A John Camm, Ricardo Cappato, Francisco Cosio, Harry Crijns, Hans-Christian Diener, Andreas Goette, Carsten W Israel, Karl-Heinz Kuck, Gregory Y H Lip, Stanley Nattel, Richard L Page, Ursula Ravens, Ulrich Schotten, Gerhard Steinbeck, Panos Vardas, Albert Waldo, Karl Wegscheider, Stephan Willems, Günter Breithardt
European Heart Journal 2009, 30 (24): 2969-77c
Atrial fibrillation (AF) causes important mortality and morbidity on a population-level. So far, we do not have the means to prevent AF or AF-related complications adequately. Therefore, over 70 experts on atrial fibrillation convened for the 2nd AFNET/EHRA consensus conference to suggest directions for research to improve management of AF patients (Appendix 1). The group defined three main areas in need for research in AF: 1. better understanding of the mechanisms of AF; 2. Improving rhythm control monitoring and management; and 3. comprehensive cardiovascular risk management in AF patients. The group put forward the hypothesis that successful therapy of AF and its associated complications will require comprehensive therapy. This applies e.g. to the "old" debate of "rate versus rhythm control", since rhythm control is generally added to underlying (continued) rate control therapy, but also to the emerging debate of "antiarrhythmic drugs versus catheter ablation", of which both may be needed in most patients to maintain sinus rhythm, but also to therapy of conditions that predispose to AF and contribute to cardiovascular complications such as stroke, cognitive decline, heart failure, and acute coronary syndromes. We call for research initiatives aiming at a better understanding of the different causes of AF and its complications, and at development and validation of mechanism-based therapies. The future of AF therapy may require a combination of management of underlying and concomitant conditions, early and comprehensive rhythm control therapy, adequate control of ventricular rate and cardiac function, and continuous therapy to prevent AF-associated complications (e.g. antithrombotic therapy). The reasons for these suggestions are detailed in this paper.

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