Gadolinium MRI links left atrial fibrosis to high risk of arrhythmias in endurance athletes

Research presented at the 2018 European Society of Cardiology (ESC) annual meeting found that left atrial fibrosis in endurance athletes could increase risk of arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation (AFib), according to an article published Aug. 31 by Cardiovascular Business.  

The study included 16 endurance athletes and 20 non-athletes at least 35 years of age or older who were training in endurance sports for at least 10 hours a week and had been competing for at least a decade, according to the researchers led by David Peritz, MD, of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.  

Peritz explained that athletic activity modifies the heart in predictable ways in terms of structural, functional and electrical changes, according to CVB.  

The researchers then analyzed the participants with late gadolinium enhancement MRI scans and were also asked questions about their medical history and physical activities.They found younger athletes to have a lower BMI than the control group, but they also carried an average left atrial fibrosis score of 13.7 percent, compared to 11.8 percent in the non-athlete group.  

“Left atrial fibrosis could be the link between endurance training and risk of atrial fibrillation,” Peritz said according to CVB. “Ultimately, we hope to use the degree of left atrial fibrosis to help predict how likely it is that an endurance athlete will develop atrial fibrillation, providing an opportunity for prevention.” 

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