New Risk Markers in Atrial Fibrillation

Abstract: Atrial fibrillation (AF) confers an independent increased risk of stroke and death. The stroke risk is very heterogeneous and current risk stratification models based on clinical variables, such as the CHADS2 and CHA2DS2VASc score, only offer a modest discriminating value.The aims of this thesis were to study cardiac biomarkers, cardiac troponin and natriuretic peptides e.g. N-terminal prohormone-B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP), and describe levels in AF patients, investigate the association with stroke or systemic embolism, cardiovascular event, major bleeding and mortality, and to assess how levels of cardiac biomarkers change over time. Cardiac troponin was analyzed with contemporary assays and high sensitivity assays. The study populations consisted of patients with atrial fibrillation and one risk factor for stroke included in the RE-LY (n=6189) and the ARISTOTLE (n=14892) biomarker substudies. Median follow-up time was 2.2 years and 1.9 years, respectively. In a subset of participants (n=2514) data from repeated measurements was available at three months.Cardiac troponin was detectable in 57.0% with the contemporary assay and 99.4% with the high sensitivity assay. NT-proBNP was elevated in approximately three quarters of the participants. In Cox models adjusted for established risk factors the cardiac biomarkers levels was independently associated with stroke or systemic embolism, cardiovascular events, and mortality. Only cardiac troponin was associated with major bleeding. In ROC analyses the prediction of stroke or systemic embolism, cardiovascular events, and mortality increased significantly by addition of cardiac troponin or NT-proBNP to the models. Persistent detectable cardiac troponin (contemporary assay) and elevated NT-proBNP levels were found in a large number of participants. Persistent detectable or elevated levels conferred significantly higher risk for stroke or systemic embolism, cardiovascular events, and mortality. By using both cardiac biomarkers simultaneously the risk stratification improved even further for all outcomes.In conclusion the analyses for the first time display that elevation of troponin I and NT-proBNP are common in patients with AF and independently related to increased risks of stroke, cardiovascular events and mortality. Persistent elevation of troponin and NT-proBNP indicate a worse prognosis than transient elevations or no elevations of either marker. The cardiac biomarkers added substantial improvements to existing risk stratification models.