Heart failure and atrial fibrillation are common conditions which frequently co-exist. In patients with established systolic and diastolic dysfunction, atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke, mortality and reduces quality of life. Recent advances in implantable device technology have improved the detection of atrial fibrillation and reduced the time to intervention. Rate control remains the mainstay of treatment to improve symptoms in patients with heart failure. Currently evidence does not suggest that the routing use of a rhythm control strategy is beneficial, other than improving symptoms in patients resistant to or intolerant of rate control medications. Atrial fibrillation ablation in heart failure is safe and may be effective in maintaining sinus rhythm. Patients with AF and heart failure have more severe strokes and require longer hospital admissions. Warfarin has traditionally been the drug of choice to reduce the risk of stroke in patients with AF and heart failure, although it use is no longer recommended in patients with heart failure and sinus rhythm. Newer oral anticoagulants offer improved stroke prevention in patients with heart failure albeit at a higher drug cost. Alternative methods of stroke reduction such as left atrial appendage occlusion are emerging, although evidence for their benefit in patients with heart failure has not yet been published.
Credits: Dr Richard Till; Prof artin Cowie