BACKGROUND: Arterial stiffness is a strong predictor of atrial fibrillation in the community. Whether noninvasively measured conduit artery function and peripheral vascular reactivity are related to atrial fibrillation remains unknown.
METHODS AND RESULTS: In 15 010 individuals of the population-based Gutenberg Health Study, mean age 55 ± 11 years, 50.5% men, we determined noninvasive vascular function by flow-mediated dilation (FMD) and peripheral arterial tonometry (PAT) in relation to manifest atrial fibrillation (N = 466). Patients with atrial fibrillation exhibited a higher mean brachial artery diameter [4.81 mm (4.17, 5.33) in atrial fibrillation vs. 4.31 mm (3.67, 4.93)] and baseline pulse amplitude in arbitrary units [6.35 (5.76, 6.78) in atrial fibrillation vs. 6.09 (5.36, 6.71)] as well as a reduced FMD in arbitrary units [1.29 (1.26, 1.33) in atrial fibrillation vs. (1.31 (1.26, 1.37)] and PAT ratio [0.42 (0.19, 0.77) in atrial fibrillation vs. 0.67 (0.33, 0.94)] compared with individuals without atrial fibrillation (all PWilcoxon rank-sum test). In age-adjusted and sex-adjusted logistic regression analyses, only baseline brachial artery diameter [odds ratio (OR) per standard deviation 1.19; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.04-1.37; P = 0.012] and PAT ratio (OR 0.83; 0.74-0.94; P = 0.0029) were associated with atrial fibrillation. In risk factor and heart rate-adjusted models, there was no statistically significant correlation of atrial fibrillation and brachial artery diameter, FMD and PAT ratio while baseline pulse amplitude was reduced in individuals with atrial fibrillation (OR 0.81; 95% CI 0.71-0.93; P = 0.0034).
CONCLUSION: In our large contemporary cohort, peripheral vascular function was compromised in individuals with atrial fibrillation. However, observed associations were mediated by age and classical risk factors. Noninvasive vascular function measures did not improve discriminatory ability for atrial fibrillation.