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Use of Rate- and Rhythm-Control Drugs in Patients Younger than 65 Years with Atrial Fibrillation

Little is known about the use of pharmacologic rhythm or rate control in younger atrial fibrillation (AF) patients in clinical practice. Using commercial health data from 2006 through 2010, patients aged <65 years with an initial AF encounter were categorized as receiving pharmacologic rhythm- or rate-control treatment. Factors associated with each treatment were determined. Cox models with inverse propensity-weighted estimators were used to compare times to AF, heart failure, cardiovascular, non-cardiovascular, and any-cause hospitalizations. Of 79,232 patients meeting the study criteria, 12,408 (16%) received a rhythm-control drug and 66,824 (84%) received only rate-controlling drugs. Only 2% and 0.1%, respectively, received electrical cardioversion and AF ablation during the initial AF encounter. Patients who were men (OR 1.10, 95% CI 1.06–1.15), had index encounters in later years (2010 versus 2006: OR 1.34, 95% CI 1.23–1.45), were in the southern United States, and had other cardiac comorbidities were more likely to receive a rhythm-control drug. There was a greater risk of AF (HR 1.40, 95% CI 1.31–1.50), cardiovascular (HR 1.26, 95% CI 1.20–1.33), and all-cause (HR 1.11, 95% CI 1.07–1.16) hospitalizations in the rhythm-control group, but there was no difference between groups in heart failure (HR 1.01, 95% CI 0.88–1.17) or non-cardiovascular (HR 1.04, 95% CI 0.99–1.09) hospitalizations. Among younger AF patients receiving initial pharmacologic treatment, antiarrhythmic drugs were used less frequently than only rate-controlling drugs, and were associated with a higher risk of subsequent hospitalization.

Credits: Nancy M. Allen LaPointe; Yuliya Lokhnygina; Jacqueline Rimmler; Gillian D. Sanders; Eric D. Peterson; Sana M. Al-Khatib

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Introduction to AFib
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