Effect of rate or rhythm control on quality of life in persistent atrial fibrillation. Results from the Rate Control Versus Electrical Cardioversion (RACE) Study

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2004 Jan 21;43(2):241-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2003.08.037.


Objectives: We studied the influence of rate control or rhythm control in patients with persistent atrial fibrillation (AF) on quality of life (QoL).

Background: Atrial fibrillation may cause symptoms like fatigue and dyspnea. This can impair QoL. Treatment of AF with either rate or rhythm control may influence QoL.

Method: Quality of life was assessed in patients included in the Rate Control Versus Electrical Cardioversion for Persistent Atrial Fibrillation (RACE) study (rate vs. rhythm control in persistent AF). Rate control patients (n = 175) were given negative chronotropic drugs and oral anticoagulation. Rhythm control patients (n = 177) received serial electrocardioversion, antiarrhythmic drugs, and oral anticoagulation, as needed. Quality of life was studied using the Short Form (SF)-36 health survey questionnaire at baseline, one year, and the end of the study (after 2 to 3 years of follow-up). At baseline, QoL was compared with that of healthy control subjects. Patient characteristics related to QoL changes were determined.

Results: Mean follow-up was 2.3 years. At baseline, QoL was lower in patients than in age-matched healthy controls. At study end, under rate control, three subscales of the SF-36 improved. Under rhythm control, no significant changes occurred compared with baseline. At study end, QoL was comparable between both groups. The presence of complaints of AF at baseline, a short duration of AF, and the presence of sinus rhythm (SR) at the end of follow-up, rather than the assigned strategy, were associated with QoL improvement.

Conclusions: Quality of life is impaired in patients with AF compared with healthy controls. Treatment strategy does not affect QoL. Patients with complaints related to AF, however, may benefit from rhythm control if SR can be maintained.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Atrial Fibrillation / therapy*
  • Cardiovascular Agents / pharmacology*
  • Depression, Chemical
  • Electric Countershock / methods*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life*


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Anticoagulants
  • Cardiovascular Agents