Electrocardiographic Predictors of Incident Atrial Fibrillation

Am J Cardiol. 2016 Sep 1;118(5):714-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2016.06.008. Epub 2016 Jun 14.


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is likely secondary to multiple different pathophysiological mechanisms that are increasingly but incompletely understood. Motivated by the hypothesis that 3 previously described electrocardiographic predictors of AF identify distinct AF mechanisms, we sought to determine if these electrocardiographic findings independently predict incident disease. Among Cardiovascular Health Study participants without prevalent AF, we determined whether left anterior fascicular block (LAFB), a prolonged QTC, and atrial premature complexes (APCs) each predicted AF after adjusting for each other. We then calculated the attributable risk in the exposed for each electrocardiographic marker. LAFB and QTC intervals were assessed on baseline 12-lead electrocardiogram (n = 4,696). APC count was determined using 24-hour Holter recordings obtained in a random subsample (n = 1,234). After adjusting for potential confounders and each electrocardiographic marker, LAFB (hazard ratio [HR] 2.1, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1 to 3.9, p = 0.023), a prolonged QTC (HR 2.5, 95% CI 1.4 to 4.3, p = 0.002), and every doubling of APC count (HR 1.2, 95% CI 1.1 to 1.3, p <0.001) each remained independently predictive of incident AF. The attributable risk of AF in the exposed was 35% (95% CI 13% to 52%) for LAFB, 25% (95% CI 0.6% to 44%) for a prolonged QTC, and 34% (95% CI 26% to 42%) for APCs. In conclusion, in a community-based cohort, 3 previously established electrocardiogram-derived AF predictors were each independently associated with incident AF, suggesting that they may represent distinct mechanisms underlying the disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnosis*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / physiopathology
  • Atrial Premature Complexes / diagnosis
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cohort Studies
  • Electrocardiography* / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity