Relation between echocardiographically determined left atrial size and atrial fibrillation.
In an attempt to define quantitatively the relation between left atrial size and atrial fibrillation, echocardiography was used to study 85 patients with isolated mitral valve disease, 50 patients with isolated aortic valve disease, and 130 patients with asymmetric septal hypertrophy. In all three groups of patients, atrial fibrillation was rare when left atrial dimension was below 44 mm (3 of 117 or 3%) but common when this dimension exceeded 40 mm (80 of 148 or 54%). In addition, when left atrial dimension exceeds 45 mm, cardioversion, while initially successful, is unlikely to produce sinus rhythm that can be maintained at least six months. These data suggest that left atrial size is an important factor in the development of atrial fibrillation and in determining the long term result of cardioversion. The pathophysiologic mechansim most consistent with this is that a chronic hemodynamic burden initially produces left atrial enlargement which in turn predisposes to atrial fibrillation. Only prospective studies will determine definitively whether these observations will be useful in decisions concerning prophylactic anticoagulation and elective cardioversion.
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