Randomized Ablation-Based Rhythm-Control Versus Rate-Control Trial in Patients With Heart Failure and Atrial Fibrillation: Results from the RAFT-AF trial

Circulation. 2022 Jun 7;145(23):1693-1704. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.121.057095. Epub 2022 Mar 22.


Background: Atrial fibrillation (AF) and heart failure (HF) frequently coexist and can be challenging to treat. Pharmacologically based rhythm control of AF has not proven to be superior to rate control. Ablation-based rhythm control was compared with rate control to evaluate if clinical outcomes in patients with HF and AF could be improved.

Methods: This was a multicenter, open-label trial with blinded outcome evaluation using a central adjudication committee. Patients with high-burden paroxysmal (>4 episodes in 6 months) or persistent (duration <3 years) AF, New York Heart Association class II to III HF, and elevated NT-proBNP (N-terminal pro brain natriuretic peptide) were randomly assigned to ablation-based rhythm control or rate control. The primary outcome was a composite of all-cause mortality and all HF events, with a minimum follow-up of 2 years. Secondary outcomes included left ventricular ejection fraction, 6-minute walk test, and NT-proBNP. Quality of life was measured using the Minnesota Living With Heart Failure Questionnaire and the AF Effect on Quality of Life. The primary analysis was time-to-event using Cox proportional hazards modeling. The trial was stopped early because of a determination of apparent futility by the Data Safety Monitoring Committee.

Results: From December 1, 2011, to January 20, 2018, 411 patients were randomly assigned to ablation-based rhythm control (n=214) or rate control (n=197). The primary outcome occurred in 50 (23.4%) patients in the ablation-based rhythm-control group and 64 (32.5%) patients in the rate-control group (hazard ratio, 0.71 [95% CI, 0.49-1.03]; P=0.066). Left ventricular ejection fraction increased in the ablation-based group (10.1±1.2% versus 3.8±1.2%, P=0.017), 6-minute walk distance improved (44.9±9.1 m versus 27.5±9.7 m, P=0.025), and NT-proBNP demonstrated a decrease (mean change -77.1% versus -39.2%, P<0.0001). Minnesota Living With Heart Failure Questionnaire demonstrated greater improvement in the ablation-based rhythm-control group (least-squares mean difference of -5.4 [95% CI, -10.5 to -0.3]; P=0.0036), as did the AF Effect on Quality of Life score (least-squares mean difference of 6.2 [95% CI, 1.7-10.7]; P=0.0005). Serious adverse events were observed in 50% of patients in both treatment groups.

Conclusions: In patients with high-burden AF and HF, there was no statistical difference in all-cause mortality or HF events with ablation-based rhythm control versus rate control; however, there was a nonsignificant trend for improved outcomes with ablation-based rhythm control over rate control.

Registration: URL: https://www.

Clinicaltrials: gov; Unique identifier: NCT01420393.

Keywords: atrial fibrillation; catheter ablation; heart failure; mortality.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Fibrillation* / diagnosis
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / drug therapy
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / surgery
  • Catheter Ablation* / adverse effects
  • Catheter Ablation* / methods
  • Heart Failure* / complications
  • Heart Failure* / diagnosis
  • Heart Failure* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life
  • Stroke Volume
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ventricular Function, Left

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01420393

Grant support