Arrhythmia-provoking factors and symptoms at the onset of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation: a study based on interviews with 100 patients seeking hospital assistance

BMC Cardiovasc Disord. 2004 Aug 3;4:13. doi: 10.1186/1471-2261-4-13.


Background: Surprisingly little information on symptoms of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation is available in scientific literature. Using questionnaires, we have analyzed the symptoms associated with arrhythmia attacks.

Methods: One hundred randomly-selected patients with idiopathic paroxysmal atrial fibrillation filled in a structured questionnaire.

Results: Psychic stress was the most common factor triggering arrhythmia (54%), followed by physical exertion (42%), tiredness (41%) coffee (25%) and infections (22%). Thirty-four patients cited alcohol, 26 in the form of red wine, 16 as white wine and 26 as spirits. Among these 34, red wine and spirits produced significantly more episodes of arrhythmia than white wine (p = 0.01 and 0.005 respectively). Symptoms during arrhythmia were palpitations while exerting (88%), reduced physical ability (87%), palpitations at rest (86%), shortage of breath during exertion (70%) and anxiety (59%). Significant differences between sexes were noted regarding swollen legs (women 21%, men 6%, p = 0.027), nausea (women 36%, men 13%, p = 0.012) and anxiety (females 79%, males 51%, p = 0.014).

Conclusion: Psychic stress was the commonest triggering factor in hospitalized patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. Red wine and spirits were more proarrhythmic than white wine. Symptoms in women in connection with attacks of arrhythmia vary somewhat from those in men.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Atrial Fibrillation / etiology*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / psychology
  • Coffee / adverse effects
  • Fatigue / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Exertion
  • Sex Factors
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Coffee