Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common sustained arrhythmia and a challenging clinical problem encountered in daily clinical practice. There is an increasing body of evidence linking inflammation to a broad spectrum of cardiovascular conditions including AF. Historical evidence supports an association between AF and inflammation and is consistent with the association of AF with inflammatory conditions of the heart, such as myocarditis and pericarditis. AF has been associated with myocardial oxidative stress, and antioxidant agents have demonstrated antiarrhythmic benefit in humans. Increased plasma interleukin (IL)-6, C-reactive protein (CRP), and plasma viscosity support the existence of an inflammatory state among "typical" populations with chronic AF. These indexes of inflammation are related to the prothrombotic state and may be linked to the clinical characteristics of the patients (underlying vascular disease and comorbidities), rather than simply to the presence of AF itself. It has been suggested that inflammation may have a role in the development of atrial arrhythmias after cardiac surgery, and that a genetic predisposition to develop postoperative complications exists. Cytokines can have a prognostic significance; IL-6 levels, CRP, and other cytokines may have prognostic value in AF. Cytokine lowering therapies, statins, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors and other anti-inflammatory agents may have a role in the treatment of AF. The present article provides an overview of the evidence linking inflammatory cytokines to AF and their therapeutic and prognostic implications.
Keywords: atrial fibrillation; cytokines; inflammation.