Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a very common cardiac arrhythmia with an increased mortality in patients with heart failure. Whether the best therapeutic approach to these patients is to restore sinus rhythm or to adequately control the ventricular rate is still controversial. The aim of this study was to compare both strategies in patients with AF and nonischemic heart failure.
One hundred and fifty-four patients with AF duration greater than 48 hours and nonischemic left ventricular dysfunction were randomized either to a rhythm (n = 84) or rate (n = 74) control group. The composite end points of the study were embolism, death, and exercise capacity.
The average age of the patients was 61 ± 10 years in the rhythm control group and 58 ± 12 years in the rate control group (P = NS). The average follow-up period was 35 ± 21 months in the rhythm control group and 37 ± 19 months in the rate control group (P = NS). In the first year of the study, exercise capacity and left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) were improved in the rhythm control group compared to the exercise capacity and LVEF of the rate control group (P < 0.0001 and P = 0.0005, respectively).
There were no statistically significant differences in the embolic event rate between the two groups (P = NS). The mortality rate, especially for death due to pump failure, was significantly higher in the rate control group at the end of the study (P < 0.0001).
Restoring and maintaining sinus rhythm had a beneficial effect on mortality and exercise capacity in patients with nonischemic heart failure and AF.
2004 by the Japanese Heart Journal