Changes in left atrial size in patients with lone atrial fibrillation
A retrospective analysis was performed on 23 subjects with lone atrial fibrillation who were followed for an average of 6.2 years (1.1-12.8 years). In all patients, underlying organic heart disease was excluded based on history, physical exam, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, and Doppler ultrasound interrogation. All patients had at least two echocardiographic studies during the period of observation. Atrial fibrillation was chronic in 11 subjects and paroxysmal in 12. All echocardiographic measurements were obtained by averaging the measurements of two blinded investigators. Left atrial size increased an average of 5.6 mm which translates into a 14.7% increase over the baseline measurement. This increase in size was not associated with a change in left ventricular mass or fractional shortening as determined by echocardiography. Subjects with chronic atrial fibrillation had a larger percent increase than subjects with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (18.9 vs. 10.8%), although this relative change in size failed to reach statistical significance. The only variable which significantly contributed to the change in left atrial size was the duration of follow-up. We conclude that atrial fibrillation occurring in patients with lone atrial fibrillation may cause a slow and progressive increase in left atrial size independent of changes in left ventricular size or function.