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PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33902. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033902. Epub 2012 Mar 16.

Clinical impact of atrial fibrillation in patients with pulmonary hypertension.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine II, Paracelsus Medical University, Salzburg, Austria.



Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is associated with progressive impairment of right ventricular function, reduced exercise capacity and a poor prognosis. Little is known about the prevalence, clinical manifestation and impact of atrial fibrillation (AF) on cardiac function in PH.


In a four year single-centre retrospective analysis 225 patients with confirmed PH of various origins were enrolled to investigate the prevalence of AF, and to assess the clinical manifestation, 6-minute walk distance, NT-proBNP levels, echocardiographic parameters and hemodynamics obtained by right heart catheterization in PH with AF.


AF was prevalent in 31.1%. In patients with PH and AF, parameters of clinical deterioration (NYHA/WHO functional class, 6-minute walk distance, NT-proBNP levels) and renal function were significantly compromised compared to patients with PH and sinus rhythm (SR). In the total PH cohort and in PH not related to left heart disease occurrence of AF was associated with an increase of right atrial pressure (RAP) and right atrial dilatation. While no direct association was found between pulmonary artery pressure (PAP) and AF in these patients, right ventricular function was reduced in AF, indicating more advanced disease. In PH due to left heart failure the prevalence of AF was particularly high (57.7% vs. 23.1% in other forms of PH). In this subgroup, left atrial dilatation, increase of pulmonary capillary wedge pressure, PAP and RAP were more pronounced in AF than in SR, suggesting that more marked backward failure led to AF in this setting.


PH is associated with increased prevalence of AF. Occurrence of AF in PH indicates clinical deterioration and more advanced disease.

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