Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia encountered in clinical practice. Although once considered a nuisance arrhythmia, recent clinical trial evidence suggests that the presence of AF is an important independent predictor of mortality and morbidity. The primary goals of AF treatment are relief of symptoms and prevention of stroke. The value of anticoagulation with warfarin has been proven unequivocally. Control of ventricular rate with atrioventricular nodal blocking agents-the so-called rate control strategy-is least cumbersome and sometimes the best approach. By contrast, efforts to restore and maintain sinus rhythm using antiarrhythmic drugs-the rhythm control approach-although tedious, may be ideal in patients who are young or highly symptomatic and in those with new-onset AF. The relative merits of both treatment strategies are discussed in this article, emphasizing the excellent clinical trial data that support each.
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