Top Things to Know: 2023 Guideline for the Diagnosis and Management of Atrial Fibrillation

Published: November 30, 2023

  1. Stages of atrial fibrillation (AF): The prior classification of AF, which was based only on arrhythmia duration, although useful, tended to emphasize therapeutic interventions. The new proposed classification, using stages, recognizes AF as a disease continuum that requires a variety of strategies at the different stages, from prevention, lifestyle and risk factor modification, screening, and therapy.
  2. AF risk factor modification and prevention: This guideline recognizes lifestyle and risk factor modification as a pillar of AF management to prevent onset, progression, and adverse outcomes. The guideline emphasizes risk factor management throughout the disease continuum and offers more prescriptive recommendations, accordingly, including management of obesity, weight loss, physical activity, smoking cessation, alcohol moderation, hypertension, and other comorbidities.
  3. Flexibility in using clinical risk scores and expanding beyond CHA2DS2-VASc for prediction of stroke and systemic embolism: Recommendations for anticoagulation are now made based on yearly thromboembolic event risk using a validated clinical risk score, such as CHA2DS2-VASC. However, patients at an intermediate annual risk score who remain uncertain about the benefit of anticoagulation can benefit from consideration of other risk variables to help inform the decision, or the use of other clinical risk scores to improve prediction, facilitate shared decision making, and incorporate into the electronic medical record.
  4. Consideration of stroke risk modifiers: Patients with AF at intermediate to low (<2%) annual risk of ischemic stroke can benefit from consideration of factors that might modify their risk of stroke, such as the characteristics of their AF (eg, burden), nonmodifiable risk factors (sex), and other dynamic or modifiable factors (blood pressure control) that may inform shared decision-making discussions.
  5. Early rhythm control: With the emergence of new and consistent evidence, this guideline emphasizes the importance of early and continued management of patients with AF that should focus on maintaining sinus rhythm and minimizing AF burden.
  6. Catheter ablation of AF receives a Class 1 indication as first-line therapy in selected patients: Recent randomized studies have demonstrated the superiority of catheter ablation over drug therapy for rhythm control in appropriately selected patients. In view of the most recent evidence, we upgraded the Class of Recommendation.
  7. Catheter ablation of AF in appropriate patients with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction receives a Class 1 indication: Recent randomized studies have demonstrated the superiority of catheter ablation over drug therapy for rhythm control in patients with heart failure and reduced ejection failure. In view of the data, we upgraded the Class of Recommendation for this population of patients.
  8. Recommendations have been updated for device-detected AF: In view of recent studies, more prescriptive recommendations are provided for patients with device-detected AF that consider the interaction between episode duration and the patient's underlying risk for thromboembolism. This includes considerations for patients with AF detected via implantable devices and wearables.
  9. Left atrial appendage occlusion devices receive higher level Class of Recommendation: In view of additional data on safety and efficacy of left atrial appendage occlusion devices, the Class of Recommendation has been upgraded to 2a compared to the 2019 AF Focused Update for use of these devices in patients with long-term contraindications to anticoagulation.
  10. Recommendations are made for patients with AF identified during medical illness or surgery (precipitants): Emphasis is made on the risk of recurrent AF after AF is discovered during noncardiac illness or other precipitants, such as surgery.


Joglar JA, Chung MK, Armbruster AL, Benjamin EJ, Chyou JY, Cronin EM, Deswal A, Eckhardt L, Goldberger ZD, Gopinathannair R, Gorenek B, Hess PL, Hlatky M, Hogan G, Ibeh C, Indik JH, Kido K, Kusumoto F, Link MS, Linta KT, Marcus GM, McCarthy PM, Patel N, Patton KK, Perez MV, Piccini JP, Russo AM, Sanders P, Streur MM, Thomas KL, Times SS, Tisdale JE, Valente AM, Van Wagoner DR. 2023 ACC/AHA/ACCP/HRS guideline for the diagnosis and management of atrial fibrillation: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Joint Committee on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Circulation. Published online November 30, 2023. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000001193