Despite atrial fibrillation representing an established risk factor for stroke, the association between atrial fibrillation and both progression of coronary atherosclerosis and major adverse cardiovascular events is not well characterized. We assessed the serial measures of coronary atheroma burden and cardiovascular outcomes in patients with and without atrial fibrillation.Methods
Data were analyzed from nine clinical trials involving 4966 patients with coronary artery disease undergoing serial intravascular ultrasonography at 18–24 month intervals to assess changes in percent atheroma volume (PAV). Using a propensity weighted analysis, and following adjustment for baseline variables, patients with (n = 190) or without (n = 4776) atrial fibrillation were compared with regard to coronary plaque volume and major adverse cardiovascular events (death, myocardial infarction, and stroke).Results
Atrial fibrillation patients demonstrated lower baseline PAV (36.0 ± 8.9 vs. 38.1 ± 8.9%, p = 0.002) and less PAV progression (–0.07 ± 0.34 vs. + 0.23 ± 0.34%, p = 0.001) compared with the non-atrial fibrillation group. Multivariable analysis revealed atrial fibrillation to independently predict both myocardial infarction [HR, 2.41 (1.74,3.35), p<0.001] 2.41 (1.74, 3.35), p < 0.00) and major adverse cardiovascular events [HR, 2.2, (1.66, 2.92), p<0.001] 2.20 (1.66, 2.92), p < 0.001]. Kaplan–Meier analysis showed that atrial fibrillation compared with non-atrial fibrillation patients had a significantly higher two-year cumulative incidence of overall major adverse cardiovascular events (4.4 vs. 2.0%, log-rank p = 0.02) and myocardial infarction (3.3 vs. 1.5%, log-rank p = 0.05).Conclusions
The presence of atrial fibrillation independently associates with a heightened risk of myocardial infarction despite a lower baseline burden and progression rate of coronary atheroma. Further studies are necessary to define the pathogenesis of myocardial infarction in the setting of atrial fibrillation.