BACKGROUND: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia and is associated with a variety of symptoms such as dizziness, palpitations, shortness of breath, and other signs of heart failure, which in turn impact quality of life (QOL). Implantable cardioverter defibrillators with atrial therapies (ICDs-ATs) have been shown to reduce AF symptoms and improve QOL in select AF samples. METHOD: This study examined the strength of relationships between objective (device-detected AF events) versus subjective (emotional symptoms) data and AF symptoms (number) reported as part of the Patient Atrial Shock Survey of Acceptance and Tolerance Study (N = 96, 72% men, M age = 65, SD = 12). Depression and anxiety were assessed via the Center for Epidemiological Studies--Depression Scale and the-State Trait Anxiety Inventory. AF disease burden was measured via a number of device-detected AF episodes and the Atrial Tachyarrhythmia Symptom Severity Scale. RESULTS: Hierarchical multiple regression analysis indicated that negative emotions accounted for a significant 13.2% of unique variance in AF symptom score (F change (1, 54) = 9.625, P = 0.003). On the other hand, the number of device-detected AF episodes accounted for non-significant 8.2% of unique variance in the AF symptom score (P = 0.167). The full model explained 25.7% of the variance in AF symptom score (F(6, 54) = 3.110, P = 0.011). Specifically, greater number of treated AF episodes (beta= 0.251, P = 0.043) and higher levels of negative emotions (beta= 0.369, P = 0.003) predicted greater number of reported AF symptoms. CONCLUSION: Therefore, psychological distress may be a significant confounding factor affecting patient's report of AF symptoms rather than the actual experience of recurrent AF episodes.
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