Context Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac dysrhythmia in the
United States. Whereas rare cases of familial AF have been reported, it is
unknown if AF among unselected individuals is a heritable condition.
Objective To determine whether parental AF increases the risk for the development
of offspring AF.
Design, Setting, and Participants Prospective cohort study (1983-2002) within the Framingham Heart Study,
a population-based epidemiologic study. Participants were 2243 offspring (1165
women, 1078 men) at least 30 years of age and free of AF whose parents had
both been evaluated in the original cohort.
Main Outcome Measures Development of new-onset AF in the offspring was prospectively examined
in association with previously documented parental AF.
Results Among 2243 offspring participants, 681 (30%) had at least 1 parent with
documented AF; 70 offspring participants (23 women; mean age, 62 [range, 40-81]
years) developed AF in follow-up. Compared with no parental AF, AF in at least
1 parent increased the risk of offspring AF (multivariable-adjusted odds ratio
[OR], 1.85; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.12-3.06; P =
.02). These results were stronger when age was limited to younger than 75
years in both parents and offspring (multivariable-adjusted OR, 3.23; 95%
CI, 1.87-5.58; P<.001) and when the sample was
further limited to those without antecedent myocardial infarction, heart failure,
or valve disease (multivariable-adjusted OR, 3.17; 95% CI, 1.71-5.86; P<.001).
Conclusions Parental AF increases the future risk for offspring AF, an observation
supporting a genetic susceptibility to developing this dysrhythmia. Further
research into the genetic factors predisposing to AF is warranted.