Eligibility for early rhythm control in patients with atrial fibrillation in the UK Biobank

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OBJECTIVE: The Early Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation for Stroke Prevention (EAST-AFNET4) trial showed a clinical benefit of early rhythm-control therapy in patients with recently diagnosed atrial fibrillation (AF). The generalisability of the results in the general population is not known.

METHODS: Participants in the population-based UK Biobank were assessed for eligibility based on the EAST-AFNET4 inclusion/exclusion criteria. Treatment of all eligible participants was classified as early rhythm-control (antiarrhythmic drug therapy or AF ablation) or usual care. To assess treatment effects, primary care data and Hospital Episode Statistics were merged with UK Biobank data.Efficacy and safety outcomes were compared between groups in the entire cohort and in a propensity-matched data set.

RESULTS: AF was present in 35 526/502 493 (7.1%) participants, including 8340 (988 with AF <1 year) with AF at enrolment and 27 186 with incident AF during follow-up. Most participants (22 003/27 186; 80.9%) with incident AF were eligible for early rhythm-control.Eligible participants were older (70 years vs 63 years) and more likely to be female (42% vs 21%) compared with ineligible patients. Of 9004 participants with full primary care data, 874 (9.02%) received early rhythm-control. Safety outcomes were not different between patients receiving early rhythm-control and controls. The primary outcome of EAST-AFNET 4, a composite of cardiovascular death, stroke/transient ischaemic attack and hospitalisation for heart failure or acute coronary syndrome occurred less often in participants receiving early rhythm-control compared with controls in the entire cohort (HR 0.82, 95% CI 0.71 to 0.94, p=0.005). In the propensity-score matched analysis, early rhythm-control did not significantly decrease of the primary outcome compared with usual care (HR 0.87, 95% CI 0.72 to 1.04, p=0.124).

CONCLUSION: Around 80% of participants diagnosed with AF in the UK population are eligible for early rhythm-control. Early rhythm-control therapy was safe in routine care.

Original languageEnglish
Early online date14 Jul 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2022. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ.


  • Atrial Fibrillation
  • Catheter Ablation
  • Stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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