Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common complication of cardiac operations that leads to increased risk for thromboembolism and excessive health care resource utilization. Advanced age, previous AF, and valvular heart operations are the most consistently identified risk factors for this arrhythmia. Dispersion of repolarization leading to reentry is believed to be the mechanism of postoperative AF, but many questions regarding the pathophysiology of AF remain unanswered. Treatment is aimed at controlling heart rate, preventing thromboembolic events, and conversion to sinus rhythm. Multiple investigations have examined methods of preventing postoperative AF, but the only firm conclusions that can be drawn is to avoid β-blocker withdrawal after operation and to consider β-blocker therapy for other patients who may tolerate these drugs. Preliminary investigations showing sotalol and amiodarone to be effective in preventing postoperative AF are encouraging, but early data have been limited to selective patient populations and have not adequately evaluated safety. Newer class III antiarrhythmic drugs under development may have a role in the treatment of postoperative AF, but the risk of drug-induced polymorphic ventricular tachycardia must be considered. Nonpharmacologic interventions under consideration for the treatment of AF in the nonsurgical setting, such as automatic atrial cardioversion devices and multisite atrial pacing, may eventually have a role for selected cardiac surgical patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine