Citation : Sanjay Kumar, Sarah Qu, John T. Kassotis
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common sustained atrial arrhythmia conferring a higher morbidity and mortality. Despite the increasing incidence of AF; available therapies are far from perfect. Dietary fish oils, containing omega 3 fatty acids, also called polyunsaturated fatty acid [PUFA] have demonstrated beneficial electrophysiological, autonomic and anti-inflammatory effects on both atrial and ventricular tissue. Multiple clinical trials, focusing on various subsets of patients with AF, have studied the role of PUFA and their potential role in reducing the incidence of this common arrhythmia. While PUFA appears to have a beneficial effect in the primary prevention of AF in the elderly with structural heart disease, this benefit has not been universally observed. In the secondary prevention of AF, PUFA seems to have a greater impact in the reducing AF in patients with paroxysmal or persistent AF, stages of AF associated with less atrial fibrosis and negative structural remodeling. However, AF suppression has not been consistently demonstrated in clinical trials. In patients undergoing heart surgery, increasing PUFA intake has yielded mixed results in terms of AF prevention post-operatively; however, increased PUFA has been associated with a reduction in hospital stay. Therefore recommending the use of PUFA for the purpose of AF reduction remains controversial. This is in part attributable to the complexity of AF. Other conflicting variables include: heterogeneous patient populations studied; variable dosing; duration of follow-up; comorbidities; and, concomitant pharmacotherapy. This review article reviews in detail available basic and clinical research studies of fish oil in the treatment of AF, and its role in the treatment of this common disorder.