Rate vs rhythm control in patients with atrial fibrillation and heart failure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

Daniel Caldeira, Cláudio David, Cristina Sampaio
European Journal of Internal Medicine 2011, 22 (5): 448-55

BACKGROUND: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common arrhythmia that can promote or worsen heart failure (HF). Our purpose was to compare the effects of rate and rhythm control in patients with atrial fibrillation and heart failure.

METHODS: We developed a systematic search in August 2010 through CENTRAL and MEDLINE databases to identify randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing rate control with rhythm control in patients with both AF and HF. We analysed mortality, hospitalisations, stroke/thromboembolic events, quality of life, and drugs adverse events. Relative risks (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were calculated for mortality and hospitalisations. The remaining outcomes were analysed qualitatively.

RESULTS: Four RCTs with a total of 2486 patients with atrial fibrillation and heart failure were identified. Mortality and stroke/thromboembolic events were not significantly different in rate and rhythm control arms [RR 1.03; 95% CI: 0.90-1.17] and [RR 1.09; 95% CI: 0.61-1.96], respectively. Hospitalisations were less frequent with rate control than with rhythm control [RR 0.92; 95% CI: 0.86-0.98; p=0.008], in 3 studies involving 2425 patients. Number needed to treat to prevent one hospitalisation was 19 patients.

CONCLUSIONS: In patients with AF and HF, rate control compared with rhythm control showed inferior risk of hospitalisation.

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