Atrial Fibrillation Is Associated With Syncope and Falls in Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Varun Malik, Celine Gallagher, Dominik Linz, Adrian D. Elliott, Mehrdad Emami, Kadhim Kadhim, Ricardo Mishima, Jeroen M.L. Hendriks, Rajiv Mahajan, Leonard Arnolda, Prashanthan Sanders, Dennis H. Lau

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Objective: To examine the potential association of atrial fibrillation (AF) to syncope and falls, we undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis given the increasing prevalence of AF in older adults as well as emerging data that it is a risk factor for dementia. Patients and Methods: CENTRAL, PubMed, and EMBASE databases were searched from inception to January 31, 2019, to retrieve relevant studies. Search terms consisted of MeSH, tree headings, and keywords relating patients with “AF,” “falls,” “syncope,” and “postural hypotension.” When possible; results were pooled using a random-effects model. Results: A total of 10 studies were included, with 7 studies (36,444 patients; mean ± SD age, 72±10 years) reporting an association between AF and falls and 3 studies (6769 patients; mean ± SD age, 65±3 years) reporting an association between AF and syncope. Pooled analyses demonstrate that AF is independently associated with falls (odds ratio, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.07-1.33; P=.001) and syncope (odds ratio, 1.88; 95% CI, 1.20-2.94; P=.006). There was overall moderate bias and low-moderate heterogeneity (I2=37%; P=.11) for falls and moderate bias with low statistical heterogeneity (I2=0%; P=.44) for syncope. Persistent AF, but not paroxysmal AF, was associated with orthostatic intolerance in 1 study (4408 patients; mean ± SD age, 66±6 years). Conclusion: AF is independently associated with syncope and falls in older adults. Further studies are needed to delineate mechanistic links and to guide management to improve outcomes in these patients. Trial Registration: PROSPERO: trial identifier: CRD4201810721.

Number of pages12
JournalMayo Clinic Proceedings
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • atrial fibrillation
  • syncope
  • statistical heterogeneity
  • orthostatic intolerance
  • dementia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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