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Circulation. 2013 Nov 12;128(20):2192-201. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.112.000491. Epub 2013 Sep 9.

Causes of death and influencing factors in patients with atrial fibrillation: a competing-risk analysis from the randomized evaluation of long-term anticoagulant therapy study.

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Paris Cardiovascular Research Center, Paris, France (E.M.); Paris Descartes University, Paris, France (E.M., J.-Y.L.H.); European Georges Pompidou Hospital, Paris, France (E.M., J.-Y.L.H.); Population Health Research Institute, McMaster University, Hamilton Health Sciences, Hamilton, ON, Canada (S.C., S.Y., J.P., J.E., E.T., S.Y.); Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma GmbH & Co KG, Clinical Development and Medical Affairs, Ingelheim am Rhein, Germany, and Medical Faculty Mannheim of the University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany (M.B.); Cardiovascular Research Foundation and Thomas Jefferson Medical College, New York, NY (M.E.); and Uppsala Clinical Research Centre, University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden (L.W.).



Atrial fibrillation is associated with increased mortality, but the specific causes of death and their predictors have not been described among patients on effective anticoagulant therapy.


The Randomized Evaluation of Long-Term Anticoagulant Therapy (RE-LY) trial randomized 18 113 patients (age, 71.5 ± 9 years; male, 64%; CHADS2 score, 2.1 ± 1) to receive dabigatran or warfarin. Median follow-up was 2 years, and complete follow-up was achieved in 99.9% of patients. All deaths were categorized by the investigators using prespecified definitions followed by central adjudication. Overall, 1371 deaths occurred (annual mortality rate, 3.84%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 3.64-4.05). Cardiac deaths (sudden cardiac death and progressive heart failure) accounted for 37.4% of all deaths, whereas stroke- and hemorrhage-related deaths represented 9.8% of the total mortality. An examination of the causes of death according to dabigatran or warfarin showed that dabigatran significantly reduced vascular (embolism and hemorrhage-related) mortality (relative risk, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.45-0.88; P=0.007), whereas other causes of death were similar between treatments, including cardiac mortality (relative risk, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.80-1.15; P=0.638). The two strongest independent predictors of cardiac death in this population were heart failure (hazard ratio, 3.02; 95% CI, 2.45-3.73; P<0.0001), and prior myocardial infarction (hazard ratio, 2.05; 95% CI, 1.61-2.62; P<0.0001).


The majority of deaths are not related to stroke in a contemporary anticoagulated atrial fibrillation population. These results emphasize the need to identify interventions beyond effective anticoagulation to further reduce mortality in atrial fibrillation.

CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION URL: Unique identifier: NCT00262600.


death, sudden, cardiac; embolism; heart failure; hemorrhage; mortality; stroke

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