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Am J Cardiol. 2011 Mar 15;107(6):917-921.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2010.10.075. Epub 2011 Jan 20.

P wave duration and risk of longitudinal atrial fibrillation in persons ≥ 60 years old (from the Framingham Heart Study).

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Section of Cardiovascular Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA.


Long-term risk prediction is a priority for the prevention of atrial fibrillation (AF). P wave indices are electrocardiographic measurements describing atrial conduction. The role of P wave indices in the prospective determination of AF and mortality risk has had limited assessment. We quantified by digital caliper the P wave indices of maximum duration and dispersion in 1,550 Framingham Heart Study participants ≥ 60 years old (58% women) from single-channel electrocardiograms recorded from 1968 through 1971. We examined the association of selected P wave indices and long-term outcomes using Cox proportional hazards regression incorporating age, gender, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, treatment for hypertension, significant murmur, heart failure, and PR interval. Over a median follow-up of 15.8 years (range 0 to 38.7), 359 participants developed AF and 1,525 died. Multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) per SD increase in maximum P wave duration were 1.15 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.90 to 1.47, p = 0.27) for AF and 1.02 (95% CI 0.96 to 1.08, p = 0.18) for mortality. The upper 5% of P wave maximum duration had a multivariable-adjusted HR of 2.51 (95% CI 1.13 to 5.57, p = 0.024) for AF and an HR of 1.11 (95% CI 0.87 to 1.40, p = 0.20) for mortality. We found no significant associations between P wave dispersion with incidence of AF or mortality. In conclusion, maximum P wave duration at the upper fifth percentile was associated with long-term AF risk in an elderly community-based cohort. P wave duration is an electrocardiographic endophenotype for AF.

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