Relation of Antecedent Symptoms to the Likelihood of Detecting Subclinical Atrial Fibrillation With Inserted Cardiac Monitors

Am J Cardiol. 2021 Apr 15;145:64-68. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2020.12.083. Epub 2021 Jan 23.


Atrial fibrillation (AF) comes to attention clinically during an evaluation of symptoms, an evaluation of its adverse outcomes, or because of incidental detection during a routine examination or electrocardiogram. However, a notable number of additional individuals have AF that has not yet been clinically apparent or suspect-subclinical AF (SCAF). SCAF has been recognized during interrogation of pacemakers and defibrillators. More recently, SCAF has been demonstrated in prospective studies with long-term monitors-both external and implanted. The REVEAL AF trial enrolled a demographically "enriched" population that underwent monitoring for up to 3 years with an insertable cardiac monitor. SCAF was noted in 40% by 30 months. None of these patients had AF known before the study; however, some had nonspecific symptoms common to patients with known AF. The current study assessed whether patients with versus without such symptoms were more likely to have SCAF detected. We found that only palpitations had an association with AF detection when controlling for other baseline symptoms (hazard ratio 1.61 (95% confidence interval 1.12 to 2.32; p = 0.011). No other prescreening symptoms evaluated were associated with an increased likelihood of SCAF detection although patients without detected SCAF had an even higher frequency of symptoms than those with detected SCAF. Thus, REVEAL AF demonstrated that the presence of palpitations is associated with an increased likelihood of SCAF whereas other common symptoms are not; and, symptoms, per se, may more likely be consequent to associated disorders than they are a direct consequence of SCAF.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnosis
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology
  • Atrial Fibrillation / physiopathology*
  • Chest Pain / physiopathology
  • Defibrillators, Implantable
  • Dizziness / physiopathology
  • Dyspnea / physiopathology
  • Exercise Tolerance
  • Fatigue / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory
  • Pacemaker, Artificial
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Syncope / physiopathology
  • Undiagnosed Diseases / diagnosis
  • Undiagnosed Diseases / epidemiology
  • Undiagnosed Diseases / physiopathology*