Until recently the standard approach of patients with recent-onset atrial fibrillation (AF) involved early cardioversion. In the latest ESC AF guidelines, a delayed cardioversion approach within 48 hours has been added to the recommendations. However, given the self-terminating and recurrent nature of AF, cardioversion may not always be necessary, and rate control medication could suffice to manage symptoms until spontaneous conversion to sinus rhythm occurs.

The Research
Continuous heart rhythm monitoring elucidated the recurrent and transient nature of recent-onset atrial fibrillation (AF). In the RACE7 we showed that a wait-and-see approach (WAS) in patients with recent-onset AF (rate control for symptom relief followed by delayed cardioversion if needed <48h) allows spontaneous conversion to sinus rhythm in 69% of patients, obviating active cardioversion. Recurrences within one month were seen in 30% of patients in both groups, i.e. the
initially chosen strategy did not affect the recurrence pattern. Considering the latter, it remains unclear
whether cardioversion is needed at all, especially since cardioversion strategy does not seem to affect
behaviour of the arrhythmia over time. Instead of cardioversion a watchful-waiting rate control strategy
may be appropriate as initial strategy. Therefore, we intend to perform a multi-center clinical
randomized controlled trial to show non-inferiority of watchful-waiting with rate control versus the WAS
approach in terms of prevalence of sinus rhythm at 4 weeks follow-up, using a novel telemonitoring
infrastructure to guide rate and rhythm control during follow-up. This novel telemonitoring infrastructure may facilitate the watchful-waiting strategy and obviate the need for cardioversion and reduce costs compared to the delayed rhythm control WAS strategy.

The study will be conducted across multiple centers in the Netherlands, including UMC Groningen, Radboud UMC, Amsterdam UMC, Alrijne Hospital, VieCuri Medical Centre, Zuyderland Medical Centre, Elisabeth-TweeSteden Hospital, Rijnstate Hospital, Martini Hospital, St. Antonius Hospital, Antonius Hospital, Noordwest Hospitalgroup, Medisch Spectrum Twente, and Maastricht University Medical Center.

This project is funded within the Innovative Medical Devices Initiative (IMDI) program 'Heart for Sustainable Care'. The focus of this program is the development of medical technology for the earlier detection, monitoring, and better treatment of cardiovascular diseases to ensure accessible healthcare and sufficient staffing. The program has been developed en funded by the Dutch Heart Foundation, ZonMw and NWO, who collaborate within the Dutch CardioVascular Alliance.

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Contact person:

Prof. dr. H.J.G.M. Crijns

Principal investigators

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Right Heart Care In the Right Place

Atrial fibrillation and heart failure are two of the major cardiovascular challenges of our time. It is important that these conditions are detected in time and treated according to guidelines. This is far from always the case. It is sometimes not clear that certain symptoms are caused by atrial fibrillation or heart failure, neither to the patient himself nor to health care providers. As a result, it sometimes takes a long time before someone receives the right treatment. The chronic nature of heart diseases such as atrial fibrillation and heart failure also means that patients with these conditions are seen by many healthcare providers. To achieve this in a high-quality and transparent manner, optimal cooperation between the various care domains is necessary. It is important that the principle of right care in the right place (JZOJP) is applied. However, network care is complex and the effective organization of JZOJP by the right healthcare professional is still far from commonplace despite the many initiatives. The origin Better treatment of these conditions was a priority on the cardiovascular disease research agenda. This is why the Dutch Heart Foundation and ZonMw have started the thematic collaboration “Right Heart Care In the Right Place". By combining expertise, we want to detect as many people as possible with atrial fibrillation and heart failure early and treat them optimally. We are doing this in various ways: jointly setting up subsidy rounds to support regional collaborations, supporting a national support structure for the regions and overarching activities that contribute to knowledge development. As part of Right Heart Care In the Right Place, the network program of the Dutch Society of Cardiology, NVVC Connect, together with involved network partners, facilitates an adequate national support structure for affiliated regional collaborations, or Connect regions. The Connect regions are supported and guided in, for example, preparing the subsidy application and they receive support during the implementation of the regional transmural agreements. The research The Right Heart Care In the Right Place consists of two forms of support: the National Impulse: the aim is to set up a sustainable national support structure that stimulates and guides regions in the regional design and implementation of network care in the field of atrial fibrillation and heart failure the Regional Impulse: the aim of the Regio-Impulse Cardiac Care is to support regional alliances, the Connect regions, in implementing regional transmural agreements. By bringing together the various care providers from the 3rd, 2nd and 1st line, these collaborative ventures jointly offer cardiological care for atrial fibrillation or heart failure more integrally and transmurally. In this way, the patient comes into contact with the healthcare provider who can best contribute to the care need at that moment. A maximum of 22 Connect regions can receive funding to implement the transmural agreements or to optimize the implementation in their region.
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Atrial fibrillation (AF) is not benign. It commonly progresses from paroxysmal AF (PAF) to permanent AF. AF progression is associated with major adverse cardiovascular/cerebral events (MACCE). Cardiovascular risk factors and comorbidities (CVR) are present long before the first AF episode, causing a progressive atrial cardiomyopathy (ACM). The mechanisms of ACM vary between patients hindering effective AF management. The EmbRACE network now aims to unravel the diversity of mechanisms underlying ACM, identify simple diagnostic tools to identify them, and develop a therapeutic approach to prevent ACM progression. The Research Early rhythm-control therapy is one promising intervention to potentially interfere with ACM progression next to CVR management. For a sustained impact we aim to develop care pathways to prevent ACM and AF progression and MACCE. Therefore, we will identify and validate relevant cellular and molecular determinants of ACM and AF and their clinical surrogate parameters; develop an in-silico platform to simulate identified mechanisms of ACM and AF and their effects on AF progression and, based on these data, make suggestions for future refinement of ACM therapy; explore the variety of temporal patterns of PAF as markers of ACM subtypes, demonstrate their prognostic relevance and identify surrogate markers available in clinical practice, based on AI and machine learning; test in a randomized trial stratified for sex the hypothesis that early AF ablation and optimal CVR management in AF patients with ACM delays ACM progression and reduces MACCE; explore whether lifestyle management reduces ACM progression, whereas with only rate control ACM progresses; validate the RACE V AF progression score in real life cohorts and translate this and other knowledge into novel care pathways for AF. The origin Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia and can lead to a variety of complications, such as stroke. Currently, there are limited treatment options for this cardiac arrhythmia. Moreover, the disease is often noticed late, which makes proper treatment even more difficult. Therefore, the Dutch Heart Foundation funded the RACE V consortium. Afterwards, the Dutch Heart Foundation guided an exploration to form a national consortium as a follow-up around this theme. This led to the EmbRACE consortium, which is a national network of six university medical centers, UMC Groningen, Maastricht UMC+, UMC Utrecht, Amsterdam UMC and LUMC and Erasmus MC, and hospitals in Arnhem and Eindhoven. The Dutch Heart Foundation funds the research.
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