Irregularity and lack of p waves in short tachycardia episodes predict atrial fibrillation and ischemic stroke

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Background: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is defined as an irregular supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) without p waves, with duration >30 seconds. Whether AF characteristics during short SVT episodes predict AF and stroke is not known. Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether irregularity and lack of p waves, alone or in combination, during short SVT episodes increase the risk of incident AF and ischemic stroke. Methods: The population-based Malmö Diet and Cancer study includes 24-hour ECG screening of 377 AF-free individuals (mean age 64.5 years; 43% men) who were prospectively followed for >13 years. There were 65 AF events and 25 ischemic stroke events during follow-up. Subjects with an SVT episode ≥5 beats were identified, and the longest SVT episode was assessed for irregularity and lack of p waves. The association between SVT classification and AF and stroke was assessed using multivariable adjusted Cox regression. Results: The incidence of AF increased with increasing abnormality of the SVTs. The risk-factor adjusted hazard ratio for AF was 4.95 (95% confidence interval 2.06–11.9; P <.0001) for those with short irregular SVTs (<70 beats) without p waves. The incidence of ischemic stroke was highest in the group with regular SVT episodes without p waves (hazard ratio 14.2; 95% confidence interval 3.76–57.6; P <.0001, adjusted for age and sex). Conclusion: Characteristics of short SVT episodes detected at 24-hour ECG screening are associated with incident AF and ischemic stroke. Short irregular SVTs without p waves likely represent early stages of AF or atrial myopathy. Twenty-four–hour ECG could identify subjects suitable for primary prevention efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)805-811
Number of pages7
JournalHeart Rhythm
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jun 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Neurology

Free keywords

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Epidemiology
  • p Wave
  • Risk factor
  • Stroke
  • Supraventricular tachycardia


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