Excessive atrial fibrosis is involved in the pathogenesis of atrial fibrillation (AF), but little is known of left ventricular (LV) fibrotic status in patients with AF. In the present study, we investigated the presence of abnormal LV fibrosis in AF, its effect on cardiac function, a possible association with arterial stiffness (i.e., systemic cardiovascular fibrosis), and the parameters of endothelial activation, dysfunction, and damage. We also studied whether LV fibrosis could be linked to the future risk of AF onset. In a cross-sectional study, the severity of LV fibrosis was assessed by echocardiographic acoustic densitometry in patients with permanent AF (n = 49), patients with paroxysmal AF (n = 44), AF-free "disease controls" (n = 42) and "healthy controls" (n = 48). Arterial stiffness (pulse wave velocity), plasma markers of endothelial activation (E-selectin), endothelial damage/dysfunction (von Willebrand factors), and microvascular endothelial function (laser Doppler flowmetry) were quantified. In a longitudinal study, 93 patients with pacemakers (22 with AF) were followed up for ≥1 year to assess the predictive value of LV fibrosis for the development of new-onset AF. More severe LV fibrosis was present in both paroxysmal and permanent AF than in the AF-free controls (p <0.001), with more LV fibrosis in permanent than in paroxysmal AF (p = 0.002). The severity of LV fibrosis in AF wais independently associated with diastolic dysfunction (p = 0.03), but not with LV contractility, arterial stiffness, or endothelial damage/dysfunction. In conclusion, LV fibrosis might contribute to LV diastolic dysfunction and the high prevalence of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction in subjects with AF.
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