Objectives: We sought to assess the impact of intermittent atrial fibrillation (AF) on health-related quality of life (QoL).
Background: Intermittent AF is a common condition with little data on health-related QoL questionnaires to guide investigational therapies.
Methods: Outpatients from four centers, with documented AF (n = 152), completed validated QoL questionnaires (Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 36 [SF-36], Specific Activity, Symptom Checklist, Illness Intrusiveness and University of Toronto AF Severity Scales). Comparison groups were made up of healthy individuals (n = 47) and four cardiac control groups: published (n = 78) and created for study (n = 69) percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA); published heart failure (n = 216) and published postmyocardial infarction (MI) (n = 107).
Results: Across all domains of the SF-36, AF patients reported substantially worse QoL than healthy controls (1.3 to 2.0 standard deviation units), with scores of 24%, 23%, 16% and 30% lower than healthy individuals on measures of physical and social functioning, mental and general health, respectively (all p < 0.001). Patients with AF were either significantly worse (p < 0.05, published controls) or as impaired (study controls) as either PTCA or post-MI patients on all domains of the SF-36 and the same as heart failure controls on SF-36 psychological subscales. Patients with AF were as impaired or worse than study PTCA controls on measures of illness intrusiveness, activity limitations and symptoms. Associations between objective disease indexes and subjective QoL measures had poor correlations and accounted for <6% of the total variability in QoL scores.
Conclusions: Quality of life is as impaired in patients with intermittent AF as in patients with significant structural heart disease. Patients' perception of QoL is not dependent on the objective measures of disease severity that are usually employed.