Exercise tolerance and quality of life in elderly patients with chronic atrial fibrillation

Christopher J. Howes, M. Carrington Reid, Cynthia Brandt, Bernice Ruo, Michael W. Yerkey, Bhargavi Prasad, Carol Lin, Peter Peduzzi, Michael D. Ezekowitz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Background: Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia affecting the elderly. Although the risk of cardioembolic stroke is well defined, the effects of chronic atrial fibrillation on exercise tolerance and quality of life have been less well quantified. Methods: We compared a group of 52 elderly patients with chronic atrial fibrillation to a group of 48 control patients in sinus rhythm. Each patient underwent an interview that incorporated the Short Form-36 Health Survey (SF-36) to quantify individual perceptions on quality of life. In addition each person underwent physiologic testing that included a Modified Bruce Protocol exercise tolerance test, 24-hour ambulatory monitor test, and an echocardiogram. Results: Both groups were elderly, 77 vs 76 years of age (P=0.35). The two groups had similar ejection fractions, 55.4% vs 58.4% (P=0.10). The atrial fibrillation patients demonstrated a higher level of comorbidity based on the Charlson Comorbidity Index, 2.46 vs 1.57 (P=0.03). On formal exercise testing there was no statistical difference in exercise duration between the two groups 9.0 vs 10.1 minutes (P=0.24). Similarly the Physical Summary Score (PCS) and the Mental Summary Score (MCS) of the SF-36 quality of life survey did not demonstrate a statistical difference between the two groups. PCS: 43.0 vs 45.9 (P=0.24); MCS: 52.5 vs 55.7 (P=0.07). Conclusions: Despite a higher level of comorbidity, elderly, ambulatory patients with chronic atrial fibrillation demonstrate similar exercise tolerance and report similar quality of life to a group of age-matched control patients in sinus rhythm. There is a cohort of patients in chronic atrial fibrillation in whom a strategy of rate control and anticoagulation may be appropriate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-29
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001


  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Chronic atrial fibrillation
  • Elderly
  • Exercise tolerance
  • Quality of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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