Investigators recently addressed this question by capturing telemetry recordings from pacemakers and AICDs. From their paper:
Background: The RATE Registry (Registry of Atrial Tachycardia and Atrial Fibrillation Episodes) is a prospective, outcomes-oriented registry designed to document the prevalence of atrial tachycardia and/or fibrillation (AT/AF) of any duration in patients with pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) and evaluate associations between rigorously adjudicated AT/AF and predefined clinical events, including stroke. The appropriate clinical response to brief episodes of AT/AF remains unclear.
Methods: Rigorously adjudicated electrogram (EGM) data were correlated with adjudicated clinical events with logistic regression and Cox models. Long episodes of AT/AF were defined as episodes in which the onset and/or offset of AT/AF was not present within a single EGM recording. Short episodes of AT/AF were defined as episodes in which both the onset and offset of AT/AF were present within a single EGM recording.
Results: We enrolled 5379 patients with pacemakers (N=3141) or ICDs (N=2238) at 225 US sites (median follow-up 22.9 months). There were 359 deaths. There were 478 hospitalizations among 342 patients for clinical events. We adjudicated 37 531 EGMs; 50% of patients had at least one episode of AT/AF. Patients with clinical events were more likely than those without to have long AT/AF (31.9% vs. 22.1% for pacemaker patients and 28.7% vs. 20.2% for ICD patients; P less than 0.05 for both groups). Only short episodes of AT/AF were documented in 9% of pacemaker patients and 16% of ICD patients. Patients with clinical events were no more likely than those without to have short AT/AF (5.1% vs. 7.9% for pacemaker patients and 11.5% vs. 10.4% for ICD patients; P=0.21 and 0.66, respectively).
Conclusions: In the RATE Registry, rigorously adjudicated short episodes of AT/AF, as defined, were not associated with increased risk of clinical events compared with patients without documented AT/AF.
“Short” episodes lasted 10-12 seconds on average.
More from Clinical Correlations on this study.