Predictors of sudden cardiac death in atrial fibrillation: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study

Ryan J. Koene, Faye L. Norby, Ankit Maheshwari, Mary R. Rooney, Elsayed Z. Soliman, Alvaro Alonso, Lin Y. Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


We previously reported that incident atrial fibrillation (AF) is associated with an increased risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in the general population. We now aimed to identify predictors of SCD in persons with AF from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, a community-based cohort study. We included all participants who attended visit 1 (1987–89) and had no prior AF (n = 14,836). Incident AF was identified from study electrocardiograms and hospitalization discharge codes through 2012. SCD was physician-adjudicated. We used cause-specific Cox proportional hazards models, followed by stepwise selection (backwards elimination, removing all variables with p>0.10) to identify predictors of SCD in participants with AF. AF occurred in 2321 (15.6%) participants (age 45–64 years, 58% male, 18% black). Over a median of 3.3 years, SCD occurred in 110 of those with AF (4.7%). Predictors of SCD in AF included higher age, body mass index (BMI), coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, current smoker, left ventricular hypertrophy, increased heart rate, and decreased albumin. Predictors associated only with SCD and not other cardiovascular (CV) death included increased BMI (HR per 5-unit increase, 1.15, 95% CI, 0.97–1.36, p = 0.10), increased heart rate (HR per SD increase, 1.18, 95% CI 0.99–1.41, p = 0.07), and low albumin (HR per SD decrease 1.23, 95% CI 1.02–1.48, p = 0.03). In the ARIC study, predictors of SCD in AF that are not associated with non-sudden CV death included increased BMI, increased heart rate, and low albumin. Further research to confirm these findings in larger community-based cohorts and to elucidate the underlying mechanisms to facilitate prevention is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0187659
JournalPloS one
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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