Background: Previous reports have described an association between the use of corticosteroids (steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [SAIDs]) and the risk of atrial fibrillation (AF). We sought to determine the existence of a similar association for non-SAIDs (NSAIDs).
Methods: We identified patients aged 40 to 89 years with a first-ever diagnosis of AF in 1996 in a United Kingdom primary care database and classified them as having paroxysmal or chronic AF. After validation with their primary care physicians, 1035 patients were confirmed as having incident chronic AF and 525 as having paroxysmal AF. Two separate nested case-control analyses estimated the risk of first-time chronic and paroxysmal AF among users of SAIDs and NSAIDs.
Results: We confirmed the previously reported association between current use of SAIDs and chronic AF (rate ratio [RR], 2.49; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.56-3.97). However, we also found that the current use of NSAIDs was associated with an increased risk of chronic AF (RR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.08-1.91). Such risk was further increased among long-term users with a treatment duration of longer than 1 year (RR, 1.80; 95% CI, 1.20-2.72). The increased risk of chronic AF was not explained by the occurrence of heart failure. The use of NSAIDs was not associated with paroxysmal AF.
Conclusions: The use of NSAIDs, as for SAIDs, is associated with an increased risk of chronic AF. Because the use of anti-inflammatory drugs in general is a marker for underlying inflammatory disorders, inflammation may be the common cause for the use of anti-inflammatory drugs and chronic AF.