Relationship between pattern of occurrence of atrial fibrillation and surface electrocardiographic fibrillatory wave characteristics

Qin Xi, Alan V. Sahakian, Thomas G. Frohlich, Jason Ng, Steven Swiryn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to assess whether surface ECG fibrillatory (f)-wave characteristics reflect clinical variables, especially pattern of occurrence. Background: In clinically stable patients, f waves have fairly constant quantitative characteristics. Both electrophysiologic and structural remodeling might modify f waves. Methods: We analyzed f waves from 238 patients (120 men and 118 women; age range 30-97 years, mean 77 ± 12) with atrial fibrillation identified by retrospective chart review as paroxysmal, persistent, or permanent fibrillation. Analysis was performed in the time and frequency domains on ECGs after QRS-T cancellation. Student;s t-test and multivariate analysis were used for comparison. Results: The f waves of 12 patients taking rhythm control drugs had lower frequency ("slower" fibrillation) than the f waves of patients not taking such drugs (5.3 ± 0.6 vs 6.0 ± 0.7 Hz, P < 001). Of the 226 remaining patients, 59 were paroxysmal, 30 were persistent, and 72 were permanent; 65 had an unknown pattern. Paroxysmal and persistent patients were younger than permanent (74 ± 12 and 72 ± 15 vs 80 ± 9 years, P < .002 for both). Paroxysmal, persistent, and permanent patients had different f-wave frequencies of 5.7 ± 0.7, 6.1 ± 0.8, and 6.2 ± 0.6 Hz, respectively (P = .01 for paroxysmal vs persistent and P < .001 for paroxysmal vs permanent). Patients older than 77 years (mean age) had lower f wave frequency than those younger 77 years (6.0 ± 0.7 vs 6.2 ± 0.7 Hz, P = .01). Using multivariate analysis, the overall pattern-frequency relationship was significant (p = .014). There was a statistically significant inverse correlation between frequency and age (R = .27, slope = -0.017 Hz/year, P < .001). Conclusions: ECG f-wave frequency reflects specific clinical variables, with higher frequency in permanent than paroxysmal fibrillation but lower frequency in older than younger patients. These findings are consistent with the idea that fibrillatory waves are modified by both electrophysiologic and structural remodeling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)656-663
Number of pages8
JournalHeart rhythm
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2004


  • Aging
  • Antiarrhythmic drugs
  • Atrial fibrillatory waves
  • Frequency analysis
  • QRS-T cancellation
  • Rate control
  • Rhythm control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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