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N Engl J Med. 2020 Jan 2;382(1):20-28. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1817591.

Alcohol Abstinence in Drinkers with Atrial Fibrillation.

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From the Heart Center, Alfred Hospital (A.V., T.N., B.C., S.N., S.P., D.S., S.A., D.V., H.S., D.K., A.J.T., P.M.K.), the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute (A.V., B.C., S.P., D.S., H.S., A.J.T., P.M.K.), the Department of Cardiology, Royal Melbourne Hospital (A.V., J.M.K., S.P., G.W., C.N., H.S.), the Department of Medicine (A.V., J.M.K., P.M.K.) and the Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics (A.D.S.), University of Melbourne, the Department of Cardiology, Cabrini Hospital (P.M.K.), the Department of Cardiology, Western Health (D.S., M.W.), Monash Heart, Monash Medical Centre (E.K.), and the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine (D.S.) and Medicine (A.J.T.), Monash University - all in Melbourne, VIC, Australia.



Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with incident atrial fibrillation and adverse atrial remodeling; however, the effect of abstinence from alcohol on secondary prevention of atrial fibrillation is unclear.


We conducted a multicenter, prospective, open-label, randomized, controlled trial at six hospitals in Australia. Adults who consumed 10 or more standard drinks (with 1 standard drink containing approximately 12 g of pure alcohol) per week and who had paroxysmal or persistent atrial fibrillation in sinus rhythm at baseline were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to either abstain from alcohol or continue their usual alcohol consumption. The two primary end points were freedom from recurrence of atrial fibrillation (after a 2-week "blanking period") and total atrial fibrillation burden (proportion of time in atrial fibrillation) during 6 months of follow-up.


Of 140 patients who underwent randomization (85% men; mean [±SD] age, 62±9 years), 70 were assigned to the abstinence group and 70 to the control group. Patients in the abstinence group reduced their alcohol intake from 16.8±7.7 to 2.1±3.7 standard drinks per week (a reduction of 87.5%), and patients in the control group reduced their alcohol intake from 16.4±6.9 to 13.2±6.5 drinks per week (a reduction of 19.5%). After a 2-week blanking period, atrial fibrillation recurred in 37 of 70 patients (53%) in the abstinence group and in 51 of 70 patients (73%) in the control group. The abstinence group had a longer period before recurrence of atrial fibrillation than the control group (hazard ratio, 0.55; 95% confidence interval, 0.36 to 0.84; P = 0.005). The atrial fibrillation burden over 6 months of follow-up was significantly lower in the abstinence group than in the control group (median percentage of time in atrial fibrillation, 0.5% [interquartile range, 0.0 to 3.0] vs. 1.2% [interquartile range, 0.0 to 10.3]; P = 0.01).


Abstinence from alcohol reduced arrhythmia recurrences in regular drinkers with atrial fibrillation. (Funded by the Government of Victoria Operational Infrastructure Support Program and others; Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry number, ACTRN12616000256471.).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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