October 1983

The Role of Alcohol in New-Onset Atrial Fibrillation

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine, Denver General Hospital and the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. Dr Lowenstein is now with the Boston University Medical Center.

Arch Intern Med. 1983;143(10):1882-1885. doi:10.1001/archinte.1983.00350100044013

• Forty cases of new-onset atrial fibrillation (AF) were reviewed to establish the frequency of various causes. Alcohol intoxication caused or contributed to 14 cases (35%). Coronary artery disease (22.5%) and pulmonary disease (22.5%) were also common causes of acute AF. Among patients less than 65 years old, alcohol caused or contributed to approximately two thirds (63%) of the cases of AF. Thyrotoxicosis was uncommon (one case in 40); no patient had a diagnosis of mitral stenosis, pulmonary embolism, or pericarditis. There were no complications of AF in alcoholic patients; the majority (88.9%) converted spontaneously to a normal sinus rhythm within 24 hours. Alcohol intoxication should be considered early in the differential diagnosis of new-onset AF in young patients. Many patients may not require admission to an intensive care unit or a costly battery of diagnostic tests.

(Arch Intern Med 1983;143:1882-1885)