Spontaneous occurrence of symptomatic paroxysmal atrial fibrillation and paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia in untreated patients.
BACKGROUND: Ambulatory outpatients (n = 150) with a history of paroxysmal supraventricular arrhythmia were studied to establish the characteristics of the first recurrence of symptomatic tachycardia (time to first recurrence, heart rate during tachycardia, and observed rhythm that was regular versus irregular) when no antiarrhythmic drug was being taken. Baseline variables were examined to assess their impact on time to first recurrence: index arrhythmia (paroxysmal atrial fibrillation [n = 37] versus paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia [n = 113]), age (mean +/- SD, 43.3 +/- 16.1 years), female sex (n = 71), or presence of other heart or lung disease (n = 53). METHODS AND RESULTS: Transtelephonic monitoring of the ECG was used to document the rhythm during recurrences of symptomatic tachycardia. Time to first recurrence of symptomatic tachycardia and heart rate during tachycardia were measured, the observed rhythm was classified as irregular (consistent with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation) or regular (consistent with paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia), and the hour of recurrence was recorded. Advancing age was significantly associated with a decreasing time to first recurrence (p < 0.001); the estimated increase in the hazard function was 25% with each 10 years of advancing age. After the effect of age was adjusted for, neither the classification of arrhythmia (p > 0.2), presence of other heart or lung disease (p > 0.8), nor sex (p > 0.9) was significantly associated with time to first recurrence. Among patients with paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia, 6.5% had atrial fibrillation recorded at the next symptomatic arrhythmia; among patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, 11.8% had a regular tachycardia recorded at the next symptomatic arrhythmia. There was a circadian pattern to the hour of occurrence of paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia but not paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. CONCLUSIONS: Age is more important than other clinical variables, including the ECG classification of a paroxysmal supraventricular arrhythmia in predicting the occurrence of symptomatic arrhythmias. Arrhythmias documented by ECG during symptoms are often different from the arrhythmia documented at the time of referral, which may confound interpretation of antiarrhythmic drug effects.
Clair, WK; Wilkinson, WE; McCarthy, EA; Page, RL; Pritchett, EL
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