Non-invasive assessment of the fibrillatory frequency of atrial fibrillation (AF) can be performed by frequency domain analysis. The peak frequency in the derived spectrum can be converted to a dominant atrial cycle length (DACL). The DACL can be altered through autonomic modulation or pharmacologic manipulation, but the change in DACL is less marked in those with a short DACL value. In patients with AF, those with a short duration of the arrhythmia have longer DACL values. Finally, patients with paroxysmal AF generally exhibit longer DACL values than patients with permanent AF. Thus non-invasive assessment of the atrial fibrillatory cycle length provides a useful index of atrial refractoriness and has the potential of clinical utility in patient assessment and treatment planning.