Heart failure and atrial fibrillation are very common, particularly in the elderly. Owing to common risk factors both disorders are often present in the same patient. In addition, there is increasing evidence of a complex, reciprocal relation between heart failure and atrial fibrillation. Thus heart failure may cause atrial fibrillation, with electromechanical feedback and neurohumoral activation playing an important mediating role. In addition, atrial fibrillation may promote heart failure; in particular, when there is an uncontrolled ventricular rate, tachycardiomyopathy may develop and thereby heart failure. Eventually, a vicious circle between heart failure and atrial fibrillation may form, in which neurohumoral activation and subtle derangement of rate control are involved. Treatment should aim at unloading of the heart, adequate control of ventricular rate, and correction of neurohumoral activation. Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors may help to achieve these goals. Treatment should also include an attempt to restore sinus rhythm through electrical cardioversion, though appropriate timing of cardioversion is difficult. His bundle ablation may be used to achieve adequate rate control in drug refractory cases.
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