Sudden Cardiac Death in Patients With Atrial Fibrillation: Insights From the ENGAGE AF-TIMI 48 Trial

Alon Eisen, Christian T. Ruff, Eugene Braunwald, Francesco Nordio, Ramon Corbalan, Anthony Dalby, Maria Dorobantu, Michele Mercuri, Hans Lanz, Howard Rutman, Stephen D. Wiviott, Elliott M. Antman, Robert P. Giugliano

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50 Scopus citations


Background-—Recent findings suggest that atrial fibrillation is associated with sudden cardiac death (SCD). We examined the incidence, characteristics, and factors associated with SCD in patients with atrial fibrillation. Methods and Results-—SCD was defined as witnessed death ≤60 minutes from the onset of new symptoms or unwitnessed death 1 to 24 hours after being observed alive, without another known cause of death. Predictors of SCD were examined using multivariate competing risks models. Over 2.8 years (median), 2349 patients died (40.5 per 1000 patient-years), of which 1668 (71%) were cardiovascular deaths. SCD was the most common cause of cardiovascular death (n=749; median age 73 years; 70.6% male). Most SCD events occurred out of hospital (92.8%) and without prior symptoms (66.0%). Predictors of SCD included low ejection fraction, heart failure, and prior myocardial infarction (P<0.001 for each). Additional significant baseline predictors of SCD, but not of other causes of death, included male sex, electrocardiographic left ventricular hypertrophy, higher heart rate, nonuse of beta blockers, and use of digitalis. The latter was associated with SCD in patients with or without heart failure (adjusted hazard ratio 1.55 [95% CI 1.29–1.86] and 1.56 [95% CI 1.14–2.11], respectively; Pinteraction=0.73). The rate of SCD was numerically but not statistically lower with edoxaban (1.20% per year with lower dose edoxaban; 1.28% per year with higher dose edoxaban) compared with warfarin (1.40% per year). Conclusion-—SCD is the most common cause of cardiovascular death in patients with atrial fibrillation and has several distinct predictors, some of which are modifiable. These findings may be considered in planning research and treatment strategies for patients with atrial fibrillation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere003735
JournalJournal of the American Heart Association
Issue number7
StatePublished - 6 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Atrial fibrillation
  • sudden cardiac death


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