Atrial flutter and fibrillation in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension or chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension in the ASPIRE registry: Comparison of rate versus rhythm control approaches

Int J Cardiol. 2023 Jan 15;371:363-370. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2022.09.031. Epub 2022 Sep 18.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Fibrillation* / diagnosis
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / epidemiology
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / therapy
  • Atrial Flutter* / diagnosis
  • Atrial Flutter* / epidemiology
  • Atrial Flutter* / therapy
  • Electric Countershock
  • Familial Primary Pulmonary Hypertension
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary* / diagnosis
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary* / therapy
  • Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension*
  • Treatment Outcome