Rate Control Yields Better Clinical Outcomes Over a Median Follow-Up of 20 Months Compared to Rhythm Control Strategy in Patients With a History of Atrial Fibrillation: A Retrospective Cohort Study

Renato De Vecchis, Marco Di Maio, Silvia Soreca, Carmelina Ariano


Background: Clinical management of patients with a history of atrial fibrillation (AF) focuses on the goal of preventing AF recurrences, or, if this is impossible due to the fact that the arrhythmia has by now become permanent, it is aimed at the control of the ventricular response. In patients with AF, an important topic is the comparative evaluation in the mid/long-term of clinical outcomes arising from the various therapeutic regimens, including pharmacological approaches as well as radiofrequency catheter ablation (abl).

Methods: In the present cohort retrospective study, 175 cases of paroxysmal, persistent or long-lasting persistent AF have been grouped depending on therapeutic approach: abl-isolated or followed by chronic use of antiarrhythmics (74 cases), drug treatment for rate control strategy (60 cases), drug treatment for rhythm control strategy (41 cases). The effects respectively exerted by the three treatment modalities on the primary endpoint, namely a composite of death, disabling stroke, severe bleeding and cardiac arrest , have been compared through a median follow-up of 20 months (interquartile range = 18 - 24 months) using the Cox proportional-hazards regression analysis.

Results: As documented by the Cox model, an increased risk of the primary composite endpoint was associated with the rhythm control strategy, as well as with the AF recurrences during the follow-up (for the former, hazard ratio (HR): 3.3159, 95% CI: 1.5415 to 7.1329, P = 0.0023; for the latter, HR: 1.0448, 95% CI: 1.0020 to 1.0895, P = 0.0410). Even hypertension was associated with an increased risk (HR: 1.1040; 95% CI: 1.0112 to 1.9662; P = 0.0477). On the contrary, a rate control strategy predicted a decreased risk of experiencing the primary endpoint (HR: 0.0711; 95% CI: 0.0135 to 0.3738; P = 0.0019) while abl did not exert a statistically significant effect on the same outcome.

Conclusions: AF abl decreases the arrhythmic episodes but does not provide a statistically significant protection against the composite of death, disabling stroke, major bleeding and cardiac arrest after a 20-month follow-up. Moreover, in patients with a history of AF, rate control compared to rhythm control strategy provides better clinical outcomes over a mid-term follow-up.

Cardiol Res. 2019;10(2):98-105
doi: https://doi.org/10.14740/cr829


Atrial fibrillation; Rate control strategy; Rhythm control strategy; Clinical outcomes

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