Rationale and current perspective for early rhythm control therapy in atrial fibrillation

Isabelle C Van Gelder, Laurent M Haegeli, Axel Brandes, Hein Heidbuchel, Etienne Aliot, Josef Kautzner, Lukasz Szumowski, Lluis Mont, John Morgan, Stephan Willems, Sakis Themistoclakis, Michele Gulizia, Arif Elvan, Marcelle D Smit, Paulus Kirchhof
Europace: European Pacing, Arrhythmias, and Cardiac Electrophysiology 2011, 13 (11): 1517-25
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common sustained arrhythmia and an important source for mortality and morbidity on a population level. Despite the clear association between AF and death, stroke, and other cardiovascular events, there is no evidence that rhythm control treatment improves outcome in AF patients. The poor outcome of rhythm control relates to the severity of the atrial substrate for AF not only due to the underlying atrial remodelling process but also due to the poor efficacy and adverse events of the currently available ion-channel antiarrhythmic drugs and ablation techniques. Data suggest, however, an association between sinus rhythm maintenance and improved survival. Hypothetically, sinus rhythm may also lead to a lower risk of stroke and heart failure. The presence of AF, thus, seems one of the modifiable factors associated with death and cardiovascular morbidity in AF patients. Patients with a short history of AF and the underlying heart disease have not been studied before. It is fair to assume that abolishment of AF in these patients is more successful and possibly also safer, which could translate into a prognostic benefit of early rhythm control therapy. Several trials are now investigating whether aggressive early rhythm control therapy can reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and increase maintenance of sinus rhythm. In the present paper we describe the background of these studies and provide some information on their design.

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