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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2013 Nov;33(11):2660-5. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.113.302272. Epub 2013 Sep 12.

Carotid atherosclerosis and incident atrial fibrillation.

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From the Department of Neurology, Medical University Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria (K.W., R.P., J.W., S.K.); and Department of Internal Medicine, Bruneck Hospital, Bruneck, Italy (G.E., S.W., M.O.).



Atrial fibrillation (AF) and atherosclerotic vascular disease are closely entangled disorders and often coexist. Whether atherosclerosis predisposes to the development of AF has not been fully elucidated.


This study was performed within the framework of the Bruneck Study, a population-based survey with near-complete participation (932 of 1000), long-term follow-up (1990-2010), and thorough assessment of AF. The carotid arteries served as a window to systemic atherosclerosis and were scanned every 5 years. Pooled logistic regression and multistate proportional hazards models were used to identify risk predictors of incident AF and effects of AF on mortality. During follow-up, 118 new cases of AF were detected (incidence per 1000 person-years of 8.1; 95% confidence interval, 6.8-9.6). Individuals with atherosclerosis were more likely to develop AF than individuals without (odds ratio, 1.8; 95% confidence interval, 1.1-3.1; P=0.021). This finding applied to women and men and to both baseline and incident atherosclerosis during follow-up. Subjects with atherosclerosis and AF were significantly more likely to die than those with either condition alone (P=0.0034), and mortality in this group was ≈ 4-fold compared with individuals free of atherosclerosis and AF (hazard ratio, 4.2; 95% confidence interval, 2.6-6.8; P<0.0001).


We found that subjects with carotid atherosclerosis are at high risk of developing AF.


atherosclerosis; atrial fibrillation; epidemiology; population; prognosis

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