Early postoperative arrhythmias after cardiac operation in children

Ann Thorac Surg. 2002 Sep;74(3):792-6. doi: 10.1016/s0003-4975(02)03786-4.


Background: Arrhythmias are a recognized complication of cardiac operations. However, little is known about the incidence, treatment, and risk factors for early postoperative arrhythmias in children after cardiac operations.

Methods: Diagnosis and treatment of early postoperative arrhythmias were prospectively analyzed in an intensive care unit in 100 consecutive children with a median age of 17 months (range, 1 day to 191 months) who had undergone cardiac operation. Patients were grouped in three different categories of surgical complexity.

Results: During a median postoperative time of 1 day (range, 0 to 15 days), 64 critical arrhythmias occurred in 48 patients. Arrhythmias consisted of sinus bradycardia in 30, atrioventricular block II to III in 7, supraventricular tachyarrhythmias in 14, and premature complexes in 13 instances. Treatment of 52 arrhythmias was successful and included pacing in 41, intravenous amiodarone in 8, body cooling in 5, overdrive pacing in 3, and electrolyte correction in 2 cases, with more than one treatment modality in 8 cases. Risk factors for arrhythmias were lower body weight (p < 0.05), longer cardiopulmonary bypass duration (p < 0.05), and a category of higher surgical complexity (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: Early postoperative arrhythmias occur frequently after cardiac operations in children. Sinus bradycardia, atrioventricular block II to III, and supraventricular tachyarrhythmias are the most frequent arrhythmias, which, however, can be treated effectively by means of temporary pacing, cooling, and antiarrhythmic drug therapy. Lower body weight, longer cardiopulmonary bypass duration, and a higher surgical complexity are risk factors for early postoperative arrhythmias.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / etiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric
  • Male
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Switzerland