Early Rhythm-Control Therapy in Patients with Atrial Fibrillation

P. Kirchhof*, A.J. Camm, A. Goette, A. Brandes, L. Eckardt, A. Elvan, T. Fetsch, I.C. van Gelder, D. Haase, L.M. Haegeli, F. Hamann, H. Heidbuchel, G. Hindricks, J. Kautzner, K.H. Kuck, L. Mont, G.A. Ng, J. Rekosz, N. Schoen, U. SchottenA. Suling, J. Taggeselle, S. Themistoclakis, E. Vettorazzi, P. Vardas, K. Wegscheider, S. Willems, H.J.G.M. Crijns, G. Breithardt, EAST-AFNET 4 Trial Investigators

*Corresponding author for this work

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BackgroundDespite improvements in the management of atrial fibrillation, patients with this condition remain at increased risk for cardiovascular complications. It is unclear whether early rhythm-control therapy can reduce this risk.

MethodsIn this international, investigator-initiated, parallel-group, open, blinded-outcome-assessment trial, we randomly assigned patients who had early atrial fibrillation (diagnosed

ResultsIn 135 centers, 2789 patients with early atrial fibrillation (median time since diagnosis, 36 days) underwent randomization. The trial was stopped for efficacy at the third interim analysis after a median of 5.1 years of follow-up per patient. A first-primary-outcome event occurred in 249 of the patients assigned to early rhythm control (3.9 per 100 person-years) and in 316 patients assigned to usual care (5.0 per 100 person-years) (hazard ratio, 0.79; 96% confidence interval, 0.66 to 0.94; P=0.005). The mean (SD) number of nights spent in the hospital did not differ significantly between the groups (5.821.9 and 5.1 +/- 15.5 days per year, respectively; P=0.23). The percentage of patients with a primary safety outcome event did not differ significantly between the groups; serious adverse events related to rhythm-control therapy occurred in 4.9% of the patients assigned to early rhythm control and 1.4% of the patients assigned to usual care. Symptoms and left ventricular function at 2 years did not differ significantly between the groups.

Conclusions Early rhythm-control therapy was associated with a lower risk of adverse cardiovascular outcomes than usual care among patients with early atrial fibrillation and cardiovascular conditions. (Funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research and others; EAST-AFNET 4 ISRCTN number, ISRCTN04708680; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01288352; EudraCT number, 2010-021258-20.)

In this multicenter, randomized trial comparing early rhythm control with usual care in patients with early atrial fibrillation and cardiovascular conditions, early rhythm control reduced the rate of death from cardiovascular causes and cardiovascular complications and did not affect the number of nights in the hospital.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1305-1316
Number of pages12
JournalNew England Journal of Medicine
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


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