BACKGROUND: Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with incident atrial fibrillation and adverse atrial remodeling; however, the effect of abstinence from alcohol on secondary prevention of atrial fibrillation is unclear.
METHODS: We conducted a multicenter, prospective, open-label, randomized, controlled trial at six hospitals in Australia. Adults who consumed 10 or more standard drinks (with 1 standard drink containing approximately 12 g of pure alcohol) per week and who had paroxysmal or persistent atrial fibrillation in sinus rhythm at baseline were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to either abstain from alcohol or continue their usual alcohol consumption. The two primary end points were freedom from recurrence of atrial fibrillation (after a 2-week "blanking period") and total atrial fibrillation burden (proportion of time in atrial fibrillation) during 6 months of follow-up.
RESULTS: Of 140 patients who underwent randomization (85% men; mean [±SD] age, 62±9 years), 70 were assigned to the abstinence group and 70 to the control group. Patients in the abstinence group reduced their alcohol intake from 16.8±7.7 to 2.1±3.7 standard drinks per week (a reduction of 87.5%), and patients in the control group reduced their alcohol intake from 16.4±6.9 to 13.2±6.5 drinks per week (a reduction of 19.5%). After a 2-week blanking period, atrial fibrillation recurred in 37 of 70 patients (53%) in the abstinence group and in 51 of 70 patients (73%) in the control group. The abstinence group had a longer period before recurrence of atrial fibrillation than the control group (hazard ratio, 0.55; 95% confidence interval, 0.36 to 0.84; P = 0.005). The atrial fibrillation burden over 6 months of follow-up was significantly lower in the abstinence group than in the control group (median percentage of time in atrial fibrillation, 0.5% [interquartile range, 0.0 to 3.0] vs. 1.2% [interquartile range, 0.0 to 10.3]; P = 0.01).
CONCLUSIONS: Abstinence from alcohol reduced arrhythmia recurrences in regular drinkers with atrial fibrillation. (Funded by the Government of Victoria Operational Infrastructure Support Program and others; Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry number, ACTRN12616000256471.).