EKG Warns of Potential Atrial Fibrillation Risk

June 25, 2009 5:21 AM CT

A new study, which was just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, finds a potential warning sign of impending atrial fibrillation and other heart rhythm issues.

In clinical practice, it’s not unusual to see EKGs where the PR interval is longer than normal. That prolongation has traditionally been thought to be relatively benign. This new study finds that is not necessarily the case.

For each increase of 20 milliseconds in the PR interval length, there is a significant increase in the risk of atrial fibrillation (twofold), the need for a pacemaker (threefold), and even death. Researchers suspect that this PR interval increase may reflect underlying disease of the heart’s conduction system, which results in these heart rhythm issues.

More study is needed to determine the right follow-up when this is found. There are many implications of this for those with atrial fibrillation, and for their families, too, since afib can be genetic.

Read more about the study: