Does asymptomatic atrial fibrillation exist?

J Cardiovasc Electrophysiol. 2023 Oct 23. doi: 10.1111/jce.16108. Online ahead of print.


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is currently defined as symptomatic by asking patients if they are aware of when they are in AF and if they feel better in sinus rhythm. However, this approach of defining AF as symptomatic and asymptomatic fails to adequately consider the adverse effects of AF in patients who are unaware of their rhythm including progression from paroxysmal to persistent AF, and the development of dementia, stroke, sinus node dysfunction, valvular regurgitation, ventricular dysfunction, and heart failure. Labeling these patients as asymptomatic falsely suggests that their AF requires less intense therapy and puts into question the notion of truly asymptomatic AF. Because focusing on patient awareness ignores other important consequences of AF, clinical endpoints that are independent of symptoms are being developed. The concept of AF burden has more recently been used as a clinical endpoint in clinical trials as a more clinically relevant endpoint compared to AF-related symptoms or time to first recurrence, but its correlation with symptoms and other clinical outcomes remains unclear. This review will explore the impact of AF on apparently asymptomatic patients, the use of AF burden as an endpoint for AF management, and potential refinements to the AF burden metric. The review is based on a presentation by the senior author during the 2023 16th annual European Cardiac Arrhythmia Society (ECAS) congress in Paris, France.

Keywords: asymptomatic; atrial fibrillation; burden; clinical outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review