Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the efficacy of atrial pacing in the prevention of atrial fibrillation following cardiovascular surgery.
Background: Although pharmacologic therapy has been used to help prevent postoperative atrial fibrillation, it suffers from limited efficacy and adverse effects. In the nonoperative setting, novel pacing strategies have been shown to reduce recurrences of atrial fibrillation and prolong arrhythmia-free periods in patients with paroxysmal atrial arrhythmias.
Methods: A total of 154 patients (115 men; mean age, 65 +/- 10 years; ejection fraction, 53 +/- 10%) undergoing cardiac surgery (coronary artery bypass surgery, 88.3%; aortic valve replacement, 4.5%; coronary bypass + aortic valve replacement, 7.1%) had right and left atrial epicardial pacing electrodes placed at the time of surgery. Patients were randomized to either no pacing, right atrial (RAP), left atrial (LAP) or biatrial pacing (BAP) for 72 h after surgery. Beta-adrenergic blocking agents were administered concurrently to all patients following surgery.
Results: There was a reduction in the incidence of postoperative atrial fibrillation from 37.5% in patients receiving no postoperative pacing to 17% (p < 0.005) in patients assigned to one of the three pacing strategies. The length of hospital stay was reduced by 22% from 7.8 +/- 3.7 days to 6.1 +/- 2.3 days (p = 0.003) in patients assigned to postoperative atrial pacing. The incidence of atrial fibrillation was lower in each of the paced groups (RAP, 8%; LAP, 20%; BAP, 26%) compared with patients who did not receive postoperative pacing (37.5%).
Conclusion: Postoperative atrial pacing, in conjunction with beta-blockade, significantly reduced both the incidence of atrial fibrillation and the length of hospital stay following cardiovascular surgery. Additional studies are needed to determine the most effective anatomic pacing site.