Background: Although evidence suggests that alcohol is associated with atrial fibrillation (AF), the association between alcohol and atrial flutter (AFL) has not been examined. The mechanism connecting alcohol and atrial arrhythmias is unknown.
Methods: Alcohol intake was determined in 195 consecutive patients with AF and AFL. Control subjects included patients with other supraventricular arrhythmias (n = 132) and healthy subjects (n = 54). Because of important competing risk factors for atrial arrhythmias in the elderly, stratification by age was performed. In a subset, atrial effective refractory periods (AERPs) were obtained from the high right atrium and proximal and distal coronary sinus.
Results: AF and AFL patients were significantly more likely to be daily alcohol drinkers (27% vs 14% of controls, P = 0.001). In multivariable analysis, AFL patients ≤ 60 years of age were significantly more likely to be daily drinkers than to drink no alcohol compared to controls (odds ratio 17, 95% confidence interval 1.6–192.0, P = 0.019). Progressively more frequent alcohol intake was significantly associated with a progressively greater odds of AFL in patients ≤ 60 years of age (P = 0.045). Neither AF subjects of any age nor AFL subjects > 60 years of age exhibited significant associations with alcohol after multivariable adjustment. Right AERPs shortened significantly with increasing amounts of alcohol intake (P = 0.025), whereas left AERPs were not associated with alcohol intake.
Conclusions: Alcohol intake is positively associated with AFL in younger patients. The mechanism may be related to a shortening of the right AERP.