Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms and Sex, Race, and Psychological Distress: A Literature Review

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Abstract

Background:

Atrial fibrillation (AF) symptoms are a major component of treatment decisions for patients with AF and impact quality of life and functional ability yet are poorly understood.

Objective:

This review aimed to determine what is known about the prevalence of symptoms and the association of symptoms to AF characteristics, psychological distress, sex, and race.

Methods:

We performed a structured review of AF symptoms as of March 2016 using PubMed, EMBASE, and CINAHL and reference searches of retrieved articles. Full-text, published, peer-reviewed, English-language articles were examined. Articles were included if they reported original research data on symptom prevalence and type among patients with AF.

Results:

The 3 most common symptoms were dyspnea, palpitations, and fatigue. The results suggested that, although AF characteristics are not a significant predictor of symptoms, tachycardia, female sex, race, and psychological distress have a positive association to symptoms.

Conclusions:

There is a scarcity of research examining symptoms in AF. Furthermore, the inconsistency in measurement methods and the failure to include diverse populations in AF research make it difficult to draw definitive conclusions from the current literature. Given the prevalence of AF in the United States and the impact of symptoms on quality of life and healthcare use, further research examining predictors of symptoms and interventions to alleviate symptoms is crucial.

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