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J Card Fail. 2001 Mar;7(1):45-54.

Atrial fibrillation impairs endothelial function of forearm vessels in humans.

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Fourth Department of Internal Medicine, Shimane Medical University, Izumo City, Shimane, Japan.



Although there have been many studies on the effects of atrial fibrillation (AF) on cardiac function, few studies have been done on its effects on endothelial function. The present study was designed to examine the effects of AF on endothelial function in human subjects.


Changes in forearm blood flow (FBF) induced by acetylcholine and nitroglycerin were measured by using plethysmography in 14 patients with lone AF, 13 patients with AF and underlying heart disease, and 12 normal control subjects. In the patients, these measurements were repeated after cardioversion. Although baseline FBF was the same in the 3 groups, acetylcholine-induced increases in FBF were significantly smaller in both patient groups than in the control group, and FBF increases were particularly depressed in AF patients with underlying heart disease. After restoration of sinus rhythm by cardioversion, FBF response to the highest dose of acetylcholine increased by 46% in patients with lone AF (n = 10) and by 90% in AF patients with underlying heart disease (n = 11). Nitroglycerin-induced vasodilatation was the same in all 3 groups and was not affected by cardioversion.


These findings suggest that endothelium-dependent vasodilatation is impaired by AF and improves after sinus rhythm is restored.

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