Atrial Fibrillation Risk Increases with Reduced Kidney Function

Patients with poor kidney function may have a 2-fold increase in atrial fibrillation.

The results of a new study published by the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology suggest that patients with kidney disease may be at a higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation.

The authors report that patients with lessened kidney function may benefit from approaches to prevent atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia in the United States, with more than 2.7 million Americans diagnosed. Due to the irregular heartbeat, clots can form and can cause a stroke, which is why patients are prescribed blood thinners.

Atrial fibrillation is particularly elevated in patients with kidney failure, but the link is currently unknown, according to the study.

Due to limited data on atrial fibrillation prevalence across a range of kidney function, the authors examined the results of 3 prospective studies, the Jackson Heart Study, the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, and the Cardiovascular Health Study. Included in the study were 16,769 community-dwelling patients without atrial fibrillation at baseline.

The authors found a significant increase in the risk of atrial fibrillation corresponding with declining kidney function, according to the study.

The most significant risk of atrial fibrillation was observed among patients with the lowest kidney function or the greatest amount of proteinuria, according to the study. These patients were found to have a 2-fold increased risk of atrial fibrillation compared with patients without kidney disease.

The link between atrial fibrillation and kidney disease was observed to remain true even after accounting for cardiovascular health and other factors. Additionally, the results were consistent across age, sex, race, and comorbidity subgroups, according to the authors.

The authors said that additional studies are needed to determine the underlying cause between atrial fibrillation and kidney disease.

"This study found that even modest abnormalities in kidney function were linked with a higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation later in life," said researcher Nisha Bansal, MD, MAS. "Atrial fibrillation may affect the selection of cardiovascular therapies and is associated with poor clinical outcomes. Thus, an understanding of the risk of atrial fibrillation across a broad range of kidney function is important."