Racial differences in left atrial size: Results from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study

Thomas A. Dewland, Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Feng Lin, Eric Vittinghoff, Elyse Foster, Kofo O. Ogunyankin, Joao A. Lima, David R. Jacobs, Donglei Hu, Esteban G. Burchard, Gregory M. Marcus

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10 Scopus citations


Whites have an increased risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) compared to Blacks. The mechanism underlying this association is unknown. Left atrial (LA) size is an important AF risk factor, and studies in older adults suggest Whites have larger LA diameters. However, because AF itself causes LA dilation, LA size differences may be due to greater subclinical AF among older Whites. We therefore assessed for racial differences in LA size among young adults at low AF risk. The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study enrolled White and Black participants between 18 and 30 years of age. LA diameter was measured in a subset of participants using echocardiography at Year 5 (n = 4,201) and Year 25 (n = 3,373) of follow up. LA volume was also assessed at Year 5 (n = 2,489). Multivariate linear regression models were used to determine the adjusted association between race and LA size. In unadjusted analyses, mean LA diameter was significantly larger among Blacks compared to Whites both at Year 5 (35.5 ± 4.8 mm versus 35.1 ± 4.5 mm, p = 0.01) and Year 25 (37.4 ± 5.1 mm versus 36.8 ± 4.9 mm, p = 0.002). After adjusting for demographics, comorbidities, and echocardiographic parameters, Whites demonstrated an increased LA diameter (0.7 mm larger at Year 5, 95% CI 0.3-1.1, p<0.001; 0.6 mm larger at Year 25, 95% CI 0.3-1.0, p<0.001). There was no significant association between race and adjusted Year 5 LA volume. In conclusion, in a young, well-characterized cohort, the larger adjusted LA diameter among White participants suggests inherent differences in atrial structure may partially explain the higher risk of AF in Whites. The incongruent associations between race, LA diameter, and LA volume suggest that LA geometry, rather than size alone, may have implications for AF risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0151559
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was made possible by grant numbers 12POST11810036 (TAD) and 12GRNT11780061 (GMM) from the American Heart Association and by the Joseph Drown Foundation (GMM). The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study (CARDIA) is conducted and supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) in collaboration with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (HHSN268201300025C and HHSN268201300026C), Northwestern University (HHSN268201300027C), University of Minnesota (HHSN268201300028C), Kaiser Foundation Research Institute (HHSN268201300029C), and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (HHSN268200900041C). CARDIA is also partially supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and an intra-agency agreement between NIA and NHLBI (AG0005). This manuscript has been reviewed by CARDIA for scientific content. First Cardiology Consultants provided support in the form of salaries for authors KOO, but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the 'author contributions' section.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Dewland et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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