Causes of death and influencing factors in patients with atrial fibrillation

Laurent Fauchier, Olivier Villejoubert, Nicolas Clementy, Anne Bernard, Bertrand Pierre, Denis Angoulvant, Fabrice Ivanes, Dominique Babuty, Gregory Y.h. Lip

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Background: Atrial fibrillation is associated with a higher mortality, but causes of death of atrial fibrillation patients and their specific predictors have been less well defined. We aimed to identify the causes of death among atrial fibrillation patients and secondly, clinical predictors for the different modes of deaths. Methods: Patients diagnosed with atrial fibrillation in a four-hospital institution between 2000 and 2010 were identified. During a follow-up of 929 ± 1082 days (median 456, interquartile 10-1584), 1253 deaths were recorded (yearly rate 5.5%). Results: Cardiovascular deaths accounted for 54% and noncardiovascular for 43%. The three main causes of death were heart failure (29%), infection (18%), and cancer (12%). Fatal stroke or fatal bleeding each accounted for 7% of all deaths. On multivariate analysis, the strongest predictors of death were permanent atrial fibrillation, heart failure (whether with decreased or with preserved ejection fraction), previous bleeding, and renal failure, which were independently associated with an increase in the risk of all-cause mortality (35%, 78%, 42%, and 79%, respectively), cardiovascular mortality (43%, 129%, 46%, and 93%, respectively), and noncardiovascular mortality (21%, 45%, 40%, and 50%, respectively). Oral anticoagulant use was independently associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality (hazard ratio [HR] 0.62; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.54-0.71; P <.0001), cardiovascular mortality (HR 0.60; 95% CI, 0.49-0.72; P <.0001), and noncardiovascular mortality (HR 0.60; 95% CI, 0.49-0.74; P <.0001). Conclusions: The majority of deaths were related to a cardiovascular origin, and heart failure was the most common cause of death in atrial fibrillation patients. Despite the high risk of stroke associated with atrial fibrillation, only 7% died from stroke. Optimization of management of any underlying heart disease and associated comorbidities should be a relevant therapeutic target to reduce total mortality in atrial fibrillation patients.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe American Journal of Medicine
Early online date28 Jul 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Jul 2016


  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Death
  • Heart failure
  • Oral anticoagulation
  • Stroke


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