Several studies have shown that postoperative atrial fibrillation (POAF) is associated with poorer short- and long-term outcomes after isolated coronary artery bypass grafting surgery. Nevertheless, there is considerable debate as to whether this reflects an independent association of POAF with poorer outcomes or confounding by other factors. We sought to investigate this issue. Data obtained from June 2001 through December 2009 by the Australasian Society of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgeons National Cardiac Surgery Database Program were retrospectively analyzed. Demographic and operative data were compared between patients who developed POAF and those who did not using chi-square and t tests. The independent impact of POAF on 14 short-term complications and long-term mortality was determined using binary logistic and Cox regression, respectively. Excluding patients with preoperative arrhythmia, isolated coronary artery bypass grafting surgery was performed in 19,497 patients. Of these, 5,547 (28.5%) developed POAF. Patients with POAF were generally older (mean age 69 vs 65 years, p <0.001) and presented more often with co-morbidities including congestive heart failure (p <0.001), hypertension (p <0.001), cerebrovascular disease (p <0.001), and renal failure (p = 0.046). Patients with POAF demonstrated a greater 30-day mortality on univariate analysis but not on multivariate analysis (p = 0.376). Patients with POAF were, however, at an independently increased risk of perioperative complications including permanent stroke (p <0.001), new renal failure (p <0.001), infective complications (p <0.001), gastrointestinal complications (p <0.001), and return to the theater (p <0.001). POAF was also independently associated with shorter long-term survival (p = 0.002). In conclusion, POAF is a risk factor for short-term morbidity and decreased long-term survival. Rigorous evaluation of various therapies that prevent or decrease the impact of POAF is imperative. Moreover, patients who develop POAF should undergo strict surveillance and be routinely screened for complications after discharge.
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