The canadian registry of atrial fibrillation: a noninterventional follow-up of patients after the first diagnosis of atrial fibrillation
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The Canadian Registry of Atrial Fibrillation (CARAF) is a nondirected, follow-up study of 1,086 patients who are enrolled at 6 centers across Canada at the time of initial electrocardiographically documented diagnosis of atrial fibrillation (AF). Enrollment commenced in 1991 with an intended 10-year follow-up. Comprehensive baseline data, including clinical history, laboratory, and echocardiographic variables were collected. The patients were treated by their own referring physicians and CARAF did not direct their care. Detailed follow-up was performed at 3 months, 1 year, then yearly, with echocardiograms repeated every 2 years. Several studies, which evaluated patient populations, predictors of events, and cardiac structure and functioning, have been performed and are ongoing. Thyroid function was evaluated at baseline, and, of 707 patients evaluated, only 6 patients were found to be hyperthyroid. Symptoms during AF were evaluated and a profile of the types of symptoms and the predictors of symptoms was compiled. Antiarrhythmic drug use is being followed. Sotalol and propafenone were the most commonly used medications, with the use of antiarrhythmic drugs increasing with recurrence of AF. The use of anticoagulants was assessed. The overall use of warfarin was relatively low, but its use increased dramatically with the presence of various risk factors including congestive heart failure, hypertension, and previous stroke. The one risk factor that did not result in increased use of warfarin was hypertension. Therefore, CARAF was able to identify that hypertension appears to be under-recognized and undertreated in its risk for thromboembolic events. CARAF is just now reaching maturity, with the majority of patients having > or=4 years of follow-up. Therefore, extensive investigations are currently under way that will evaluate the baseline characteristics and utilize these as predictors of recurrence of AF, progression to chronicity, and the occurrence of major events such as stroke and death. A very large cohort of patients with serial echocardiograms over 4 years will permit an understanding of the progression of structural and valvular disease. Therefore, CARAF offers a unique opportunity for comprehensive, nondirected follow-up of patients from their initial diagnosis of AF.