Background: The development of atrial flutter and fibrillation (AFL/AF) in patients with pre-capillary pulmonary hypertension has been associated with an increased risk of morbidity and mortality. Rate and rhythm control strategies have not been directly compared.
Methods: Eighty-four patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) or chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) with new-onset AFL/AF were identified in the ASPIRE registry. First, baseline characteristics and rates of sinus rhythm (SR) restoration of 3 arrhythmia management strategies (rate control, medical rhythm control and DC cardioversion, DCCV) in an early (2009-13) and later (2014-19) cohort were compared. Longer-term outcomes in patients who achieved SR versus those who did not were then explored.
Results: Sixty (71%) patients had AFL and 24 (29%) AF. Eighteen (22%) patients underwent rate control, 22 (26%) medical rhythm control and 44 (52%) DCCV. SR was restored in 33% treated by rate control, 59% medical rhythm control and 95% DCCV (p < 0.001). Restoration of SR was associated with greater improvement in functional class (FC) and Incremental Shuttle Walk Distance (p both <0.05). It also independently predicted superior survival (3-year survival 62% vs 23% in those remaining in AFL/AF, p < 0.0001). In addition, FC III/IV independently predicted higher mortality (HR 2.86, p = 0.007). Right atrial area independently predicted AFL/AF recurrence (OR 1.08, p = 0.01). DCCV was generally well tolerated with no immediate major complications.
Conclusions: Restoration of SR is associated with superior functional improvement and survival in PAH/CTEPH compared with rate control. DCCV is generally safe and is more effective than medical therapy at achieving SR.
Keywords: Arrhythmias; Atrial fibrillation; Atrial flutter; Pulmonary hypertension; Survival; WHO functional class.
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