Vagal atrial fibrillation: What is it and should we treat it?

Int J Cardiol. 2015 Dec 15:201:415-21. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2015.08.108. Epub 2015 Aug 10.


Vagal atrial fibrillation (AF) remains an under-recognised entity, affecting younger patients often with structurally normal hearts. Although there remains no universal definition or diagnostic criteria, in this review we describe recognised triggers and associated features, including a well-established association with athletic training. We explore potential mechanisms, including the role of the autonomic nervous system and ganglionated plexi in initiating and maintaining arrhythmia. We discuss the limited evidence base addressing the question of progression to persistent AF, and debate the merits of anti-arrhythmic treatment, as well as uncertainty regarding the risk of stroke. Differences in suggested pharmacological therapy are highlighted and as is the emerging promise of radiofrequency catheter ablation as a therapeutic option. As we recognise the emerging burden of vagal AF, we hope to explore the important similarities and differences crucial to developing our understanding of the disorder, and highlight some significant questions which remain unanswered.

Keywords: Atrial fibrillation in athletes; Autonomic nervous system; Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation; Vagal atrial fibrillation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / therapeutic use
  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnosis*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / therapy*
  • Catheter Ablation / methods*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vagus Nerve / physiopathology*


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents