A greater burden of atrial fibrillation is associated with worse endothelial dysfunction in hypertension

J Hum Hypertens. 2020 Jul 21. doi: 10.1038/s41371-020-0383-8. Online ahead of print.


Atrial fibrillation (AF) and hypertension often co-exist and both are associated with endothelial dysfunction. We hypothesised that AF would further worsen endothelium-dependent flow-mediated dilatation (FMD) in hypertension patients compared to those without AF. In a cross-sectional comparison, we measured brachial artery diameter at rest and during reactive hyperaemia following 5 min of arterial occlusion in two patient groups: AF (and hypertension) (n = 61) and hypertension control groups (n = 33). The AF (and hypertension) subgroups: permanent AF (n = 30) and paroxysmal AF (n = 31) were also assessed. The permanent AF patients received heart rate and blood pressure (BP) control optimisation and were then followed up after eight weeks for repeat FMD testing. There was no significant difference in FMD between AF (and hypertension) group and hypertension control group (4.6%, 95% CI [2.6-5.9%] vs 2.6%, 95% CI [1.9-5.3%]; p = 0.25). There was a significant difference in FMD between permanent AF and paroxysmal AF groups (3.1%, 95% CI [2.3-4.8%] vs 5.9%, 95% CI [4.0-8.1%]; p = 0.02). Endothelium-dependent FMD response showed a non-significant improvement trend following eight weeks of heart rate and BP optimisation (3.1%, 95% CI [2.3-4.8%] (baseline) vs 5.2%, 95% CI [3.9-6.5%] (follow up), p = 0.09). Presence of AF generally does not incrementally worsen endothelial dysfunction in hypertension patients, although the duration and frequency of AF (paroxysmal AF to permanent AF) does lead to worsening endothelial function. Eight weeks of BP optimisation did not significantly improve endothelial dysfunction as measured by FMD.