Background: Atrial fibrillation (AF) and congestive heart failure (CHF) frequently occur together, but there is limited information regarding their temporal relations and the combined influence of these conditions on mortality.
Methods and results: We studied participants in the Framingham Study with new-onset AF or CHF. Multivariable Cox proportional hazards models with time-dependent variables were used to evaluate whether mortality after AF or CHF was affected by the occurrence and timing of the other condition. Hazard ratios (HRs) were adjusted for time period and cardiovascular risk factors. During the study period, 1470 participants developed AF, CHF, or both. Among 382 individuals with both conditions, 38% had AF first, 41% had CHF first, and 21% had both diagnosed on the same day. The incidence of CHF among AF subjects was 33 per 1000 person-years, and the incidence of AF among CHF subjects was 54 per 1000 person-years. In AF subjects, the subsequent development of CHF was associated with increased mortality (men: HR 2.7; 95% CI, 1.9 to 3.7; women: HR 3.1; 95% CI, 2.2 to 4.2). Similarly, in CHF subjects, later development of AF was associated with increased mortality (men: HR 1.6; 95% CI, 1.2 to 2.1; women: HR 2.7, 95% CI, 2.0 to 3.6). Preexisting CHF adversely affected survival in individuals with AF, but preexisting AF was not associated with adverse survival in those with CHF.
Conclusions: Individuals with AF or CHF who subsequently develop the other condition have a poor prognosis. Additional studies addressing the pathogenesis, prevention, and optimal management of the joint occurrence of AF and CHF appear warranted.