Aims: In atrial fibrillation (AF), fibrillatory waves of surface electrocardiograms (ECG) vary among patients with respect to waveform and repetition rate. The purpose of this study was to (i) explore clinical determinants of new-onset AF and (ii) determine prognostic significance to predict initial treatment outcome of electrocardiographic fibrillatory wave characteristics in new-onset AF.
Methods and results: Twenty-five patients (15 male, mean age 69 +/- 16 years) with new-onset AF (median AF duration 8 days) were studied. Fibrillatory rate and exponential decay defined as decay of the curve that connects power maxima of dominant and harmonic frequency components were obtained by spatiotemporal QRST cancellation and time-frequency analysis of the index ECG (before treatment initiation). Baseline AF rate was 380 +/- 50 fibrillations per minute (fpm) (range 222-494); patients' age (beta = - 1.747, P = 0.003) and AF duration (beta = 0.726, P = 0.036) were independently related with fibrillatory rate. AF terminated within 24 h in seven patients, while it was persistent in the other 18 patients. Terminating AF had lower atrial rate (333 +/- 66 vs. 398 +/- 40 fpm, P = 0.005) and exponential decay (1.03 +/- 0.36 vs. 1.40 +/- 0.37, P = 0.041) than persisting AF. Multivariate analysis revealed fibrillatory rate to be the only independent predictor of AF termination or persistence (beta = 0.031, P = 0.031). Sensitivity and specificity for predicting AF termination were strongly related to fibrillatory rate (area under the curve = 0.817). Sensitivity and specificity were 89% and 71% for a fibrillatory rate of 355 fpm.
Conclusions: Fibrillatory rates vary substantially among patients to new-onset AF and are related to patients' age and AF duration. Lower fibrillatory rates indicate higher chances of spontaneous AF termination within 24 h.