Risk associated with perioperative atrial fibrillation


Background: New-onset POAF occurs with 10% of noncardiac surgery and 15%-42% of cardiac surgery. POAF is believed to be self-limiting and most patients revert to sinus rhythm before hospital discharge. Previous studies on this topic are both limited and conflicting, but several suggest there is an association of stroke and mortality with POAF.

Dr. Joshua Mayer

Study design: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals were used for early outcomes and hazard ratios were used for long-term outcomes.

Setting: Prospective and retrospective cohort studies.

Synopsis: A total of 35 carefully selected studies were analyzed for a total of 2,458,010 patients. Outcomes of interest were early stroke or mortality within 30 days of surgery and long-term stroke or mortality after 30 days. The reference group was patients without POAF at baseline. Subgroup analysis included separating patients into cardiac surgery and noncardiac surgery.

New-onset POAF was associated with increased risk of early stroke (OR, 1.62; 95% CI, 1.47-1.80) and early mortality (OR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.11-1.88). POAF also was associated with risk for long-term stroke (hazard ratio, 1.37; 95% CI, 1.07-1.77) and long-term mortality (HR, 1.37; 95% CI, 1.27-1.49). The risk of long-term stroke from new-onset POAF was highest among patients who received noncardiac surgery.

Despite identifying high-quality studies with thoughtful analysis, some data had the potential for publication bias. The representative sample did not report paroxysmal vs. persistent atrial fibrillation separately. Furthermore, the study had the potential to be confounded by detection bias of preexisting atrial fibrillation.

Bottom line: New-onset POAF is associated with early and long-term risk of stroke and mortality. Subsequent strategies to reduce this risk have yet to be determined.

Citation: Lin MH et al. Perioperative/postoperative atrial fibrillation and risk of subsequent stroke and/or mortality. Stroke. 2019 May;50:1364-71.

Dr. Mayer is a hospitalist and assistant professor of medicine at St. Louis University School of Medicine.

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