The RACE to the EAST. In pursuit of rhythm control therapy for atrial fibrillation-a dedication to Harry Crijns

Bruno Reissmann, Günter Breithardt, A John Camm, Isabelle C Van Gelder, Andreas Metzner, Paulus Kirchhof
Europace: European Pacing, Arrhythmias, and Cardiac Electrophysiology 2021 April 10, 23 (Supplement_2): ii34-ii39
The RACE trial was one of the first landmark trials to establish whether restoring and maintaining sinus rhythm could reduce morbidity and mortality in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). Its neutral outcome shaped clinical decision-making for almost 20 years. However, there were two important treatment-related factors associated with mortality of rhythm control therapy at that time: One was safety of antiarrhythmic drug therapy, and the other one withdrawal of anticoagulation after restoration of sinus rhythm. Both concerns have been overcome, and, moreover, important knowledge considering the importance of time for the treatment of AF has been gained. These insights led to the concept of the EAST-AFNET 4 trial, and after more than two decades in the pursuit of ongoing therapeutic improvement, early rhythm control therapy has demonstrated to reduce a composite of cardiovascular death, stroke, and hospitalization for worsening of HF or acute coronary syndrome, by 21% (first primary outcome, absolute reduction 1.1 per 100 patient-years). For this entire period, Harry Crijns characterized the treatment of AF patients, and contributed decisively to realizing the benefit of rhythm control therapy. It is almost easier to list the clinical trials without Harry's involvement than to list those which he co-designed and led.

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