Prevalence of silent cerebral ischemia in paroxysmal and persistent atrial fibrillation and correlation with cognitive function

Fiorenzo Gaita, Laura Corsinovi, Matteo Anselmino, Cristina Raimondo, Martina Pianelli, Elisabetta Toso, Laura Bergamasco, Carlo Boffano, Maria Consuelo Valentini, Federico Cesarani, Marco Scaglione
Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2013 November 19, 62 (21): 1990-1997

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to compare the prevalence of silent cerebral ischemia (SCI) and cognitive performance in patients with paroxysmal and persistent atrial fibrillation (AF) and controls in sinus rhythm.

BACKGROUND: Large registries have reported a similar risk for symptomatic stroke in both paroxysmal and persistent AF. The relationship among paroxysmal and persistent AF, SCI, and cognitive impairment has remained uncharted.

METHODS: Two hundred seventy subjects were enrolled: 180 patients with AF (50% paroxysmal and 50% persistent) and 90 controls. All subjects underwent clinical assessment, neurological examination, cerebral magnetic resonance, and the Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status.

RESULTS: At least 1 area of SCI was present in 80 patients (89%) with paroxysmal AF, 83 (92%) with persistent AF (paroxysmal vs. persistent, p = 0.59), and 41 (46%) controls (paroxysmal vs. controls and persistent vs. controls, p < 0.01). The number of areas of SCI per subject was higher in patients with persistent AF than in those with paroxysmal AF (41.1 ± 28.0 vs. 33.2 ± 22.8, p = 0.04), with controls reporting lower figures (12.0 ± 26.7, p < 0.01 for both). Cognitive performance was significantly worse in patients with persistent and paroxysmal AF than in controls (Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status scores 82.9 ± 11.5, 86.2 ± 13.8, and 92.4 ± 15.4 points, respectively, p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: Patients with paroxysmal and persistent AF had a higher prevalence and number of areas of SCI per patient than controls and worse cognitive performance than subjects in sinus rhythm.

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