Factors predisposing to the development of atrial fibrillation

Pacing Clin Electrophysiol. 1997 Oct;20(10 Pt 2):2670-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-8159.1997.tb06115.x.


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is in most patients (approximately 70%) associated with organic heart disease including valvular heart disease, coronary artery disease, hypertension, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy, and congenital heart disease, mostly atrial septal defect in adults. In many chronic conditions, determining whether AF is the result or is unrelated to the underlying heart disease, remains unclear. The list of possible etiologies also include cardiac amyloidosis, hemochromatosis and endomyocardial fibrosis. Other heart diseases, such as mitral valve prolapse (without mitral regurgitation), calcifications of the mitral annulus, atrial myxoma, pheochomocytoma, and idiopathic dilated right atrium may present with AF. Atrial fibrillation may occur in the absence of detectable organic heart disease, the so-called "lone AF", in about 30% of cases. The term "idiopathic AF" implies the absence of any detectable etiology including hyperthyroidism, chronic obstructive lung disease, overt sinus node dysfunction, and overt or concealed preexcitation (Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome), only to mention a few of other uncommon causes of AF. The autonomous nervous system may contribute to the occurrence of AF in some patients. AF occurs commonly. In patients with valvular heart disease, AF is common, particularly when the mitral valve is involved. The occurrence of AF is unrelated to the severity of mitral stenosis or mitral regurgitation but is more common in patients with enlarged left atrium and congestive heart failure. In patients with coronary artery disease, AF occurs predominantly in older patients, males, and patients with left ventricular dysfunction, Important predictive factors of AF include hypertension, left ventricular hypertrophy and diabetes. The risk of the development of AF, in an individual patient, is often difficult to assess. Increasing age, presence of valvular heart disease, and congestive heart failure increase the risk of atrial fibrillation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atrial Fibrillation / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors