Seven of 214 patients (3%) with acute myocardial infarction (120 inferior and 94 anterior) developed atrial fibrillation within 3 hr of the onset of chest pain. All seven patients had an inferior infarction and in all seven the left circumflex artery was occluded proximal to the origin of its left atrial circumflex branch. In five patients this occlusion was acute and was the cause of inferior infarction and in the remaining two patients the occlusion was old and the inferior infarction was due to an acute occlusion of the right coronary artery that also supplied extensive collaterals to the previously occluded left circumflex artery. All seven patients also had impaired perfusion to the atrioventricular nodal artery, as evidenced by total occlusion proximal to its origin or by stenosis proximal to its origin associated with second- or third-degree atrioventricular block. In contrast, early atrial fibrillation did not occur in any of the 18 patients with inferior myocardial infarction due to acute occlusion of the distal left circumflex artery or in any of the five patients with inferior infarction due to acute occlusion of the proximal left circumflex artery if perfusion to the atrioventricular nodal artery was not impaired. Early atrial fibrillation did not occur in any of the 90 patients with inferior infarction due to acute occlusion of the right coronary artery, including 12 patients with occlusion proximal to the sinus nodal artery, but without coexistent occlusion of the left circumflex artery. Our data indicate that early atrial fibrillation in acute myocardial infarction occurs when there is coexistent occlusion of the left circumflex artery proximal to the origin of its left atrial circumflex branch and impaired perfusion of the atrioventricular nodal artery. Since these two arteries both contribute to left atrial perfusion, our data suggest that acute left atrial ischemia is the pathophysiologic mechanism of early atrial fibrillation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
- Physiology (medical)