Can AF cause cardiac arrest?

So I've always been under the impression that AF could not cause you to flat line at all, even my EP told me that this was the case.

However I've done a little research and found that there have been a few studies which link AF to cardiac arrest. So there is at least a little contradictory literature out there regarding the benign nature of the disease.

Could anyone enlighten me further? I suppose there's always the possibility that the subjects who had cardiac arrest had other heart ailments too.


14 Replies

  • I think it is true to say that lone AF is not life threatening. That said many people who have AF also have other cardiac issues. These may pre date the AF such as those who end up with AF as a result of valve problems or prior heart surgery. There is also the possibility that drugs used to control AF. if inappropriate can cause other issues. One particular drug can convert atrial flutter to ventricular flutter which could lead to death.

    Lack of adequate anticoagulation in those at risk can cause death by stroke of course and there is also the possibility that uncontrolled and untreated AF can lead to cardiomyopathy (enlarged  heart) which in turn could lead to eventual heart failure.

    If you study the views of many top EPs you will note that none of them consider AF to be other than life changing but there is the perception in some quarters that it can be fatal. This seems to come out in TV shows where for dramatic affect a person who is found to have AF is suddenly at death's door but if you base your knowledge on TV then you are going to be wrong a lot of the time.

    I shall continue to hold the view that lone AF is not life threatening.

  • Thanks Bob, maybe you can give me your idea on ectopics. I've just had several days of them. Many very strong and close together. I was in a+e Monday night and yesterday received a letter from my EP for an appointment in 2 weeks. I also get mitral regurgitation with no problems. Thanks 

  • Dashed irritating but mainly harmless. I once had three months of the damned things going every third, fourth, fifth etc up to eleventh beat and then starting again at third.  I eventually went back on propafanone for a couple of weeks and at the same time saw my Bowen practitioner who did some work on my vagus nerve and they subsided. As I said in another post the last Holter I had last year showed about 2000 in a 24 hour period many of which I was unaware of.  I get good days and bad I think depending a lot of how much meat I eat. Today is a good day as last night was veggie meal. I do not normally take any meds for arrhythmia. (lots of other  conditions!) other than warfarin of course.

  • What is the difference between the Bowen Technique and cranial osteopathy?

    Osteopath I consulted was afraid that she would burst my aortic aneurysm and sent me to her gentler colleague. Google makes Bowen and cranial sound similar.

  • Bob, may I ask how Dr works on vagal nerve? Gracey

  • Bowen is not Dr.  I go to  a practitioner in Bowen technique. I can't tell you what or how he does what but it involves lots of little tweaks  in lots of places from neck downwards. If I knew then I would be charging £30 a session!

  • Thanks Bob, 

    I never heard of it , probably a different name here in US. I will look it up, Gracey 

  • " One particular drug can convert atrial flutter to ventricular flutter which could lead to death"

    Which drug is that to any of us who are on it!

  • Sorry I'm not saying as it is very rare and I don't want people panicking but one reason why some drugs need to be started in hospital. If you are on it and still here you have no need to worry.

    Bowen like a cross between cyropractise and reflexology. Gentle manipulation of pressure points etc.

  • Which drug in particular can turn AFlutter to VF Bob? I was on dispyramide which caused prolonged QT 

  • Lots of anti arrhythmic drugs are also prop arrhythmic in other ways so best not to dwell too much and rely on one's EP I feel.

  • Thank you Bob. I disagree about relying only on your EP. It is important we do our own research also and evaluate all risks thoroughly as long as it is evidence based. The reason I have concluded this was because it was completely incidental that it was discovered I had long QT and I was extremely toxic on disopyramide. I was having no regular check ups or ECGs. As always, you are very dedicated to this forum Bob and to providing your knowledge and opinions but I don't think we should always rely on our EP as they base their decisions on infrequent appointments and occasional EGGs and holters or EP studies. I have a lot of respect for my EP but I don't think everything he says should be completely relied upon. Anti arrythmic drugs were prescribed to me outside of hospital with no regular follow long as NICE guidelines and professional codes of conduct are adhered to doctors are covered so i will not solely rely on what an EP says. But thank you for your answer.

  • I agree with Bob. The observation that people with AF have an increased risk of cardiac arrest does not mean AF causes that cardiac arrest. This would be the classic error in scientific reasoning of "inferring causation from correlation". Many with AF have other problems - even those who assume they have "lone atrial fibrillation" (like myself) might have health issues that fall under the radar of usual diagnostic tests. But these are just statistics: within this population of AF'ers, some are happily in their 90s, others don't live as long. There is a distribution of life trajectories and all we can do is make the best choices that we can. AF is one mortality risk, but all that means is that we need to work a bit harder to lower our mortality risks in other ways (e.g. eating well, exercise, reducing stress etc)

  • At HRC last year we were told that in fact many people with AF actually live longer than their peers because the changes to life style which they make such as reduction in alcohol consumption, stopping smoking , improved diet, de stressing etc extend their life expectancy.

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