Background: The AFFIRM Study was a randomized multicenter comparison of 2 treatment strategies, rate-control versus rhythm-control, in high-risk patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). The primary outcome of the trial showed no overall difference in survival between strategies. However, there may be important patient subgroups for which there are identifiable differences in outcome with 1 of the 2 strategies.
Methods and results: Subgroups that were prespecified for analysis from the main AFFIRM Study were age, sex, coronary artery disease (CAD), hypertension, congestive heart failure (CHF), left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF), rhythm at randomization, first episode of AF, and duration of the qualifying episode of AF. Baseline characteristics were analyzed for each subgroup. Adjusted hazard ratios for each subgroup and for each stratum were generated using Cox models, and these models were used to determine whether treatment strategy affected overall survival differentially by subgroup. Adjusted survival was worse for patients > or =65 years and for patients with a history of CHF, CAD, or an abnormal LVEF. In the adjusted analyses, the effect of treatment strategy was similar within all of the prespecified subgroups. When each subgroup stratum was analyzed separately, patients > or =65 years and patients without a history of CHF had significantly better outcome with rate-control therapy (each P < .01).
Conclusions: Overall, treatment effect for rate control versus rhythm control was the same within each subgroup. However, certain selected patient categories may have better survival with one particular strategy for management of AF.