Context: Postoperative atrial fibrillation or flutter (AF) is one of the most common complications of cardiac surgery and significantly increases morbidity and health care utilization. A few small trials have evaluated whether long-chain n-3-polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) reduce postoperative AF, with mixed results.
Objective: To determine whether perioperative n-3-PUFA supplementation reduces postoperative AF.
Design, setting, and patients: The Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Prevention of Post-operative Atrial Fibrillation (OPERA) double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. A total of 1516 patients scheduled for cardiac surgery in 28 centers in the United States, Italy, and Argentina were enrolled between August 2010 and June 2012. Inclusion criteria were broad; the main exclusions were regular use of fish oil or absence of sinus rhythm at enrollment.
Intervention: Patients were randomized to receive fish oil (1-g capsules containing ≥840 mg n-3-PUFAs as ethyl esters) or placebo, with preoperative loading of 10 g over 3 to 5 days (or 8 g over 2 days) followed postoperatively by 2 g/d until hospital discharge or postoperative day 10, whichever came first.
Main outcome measure: Occurrence of postoperative AF lasting longer than 30 seconds. Secondary end points were postoperative AF lasting longer than 1 hour, resulting in symptoms, or treated with cardioversion; postoperative AF excluding atrial flutter; time to first postoperative AF; number of AF episodes per patient; hospital utilization; and major adverse cardiovascular events, 30-day mortality, bleeding, and other adverse events.
Results: At enrollment, mean age was 64 (SD, 13) years; 72.2% of patients were men, and 51.8% had planned valvular surgery. The primary end point occurred in 233 (30.7%) patients assigned to placebo and 227 (30.0%) assigned to n-3-PUFAs (odds ratio, 0.96 [95% CI, 0.77-1.20]; P = .74). None of the secondary end points were significantly different between the placebo and fish oil groups, including postoperative AF that was sustained, symptomatic, or treated (231 [30.5%] vs 224 [29.6%], P = .70) or number of postoperative AF episodes per patient (1 episode: 156 [20.6%] vs 157 [20.7%]; 2 episodes: 59 [7.8%] vs 49 [6.5%]; ≥3 episodes: 18 [2.4%] vs 21 [2.8%]) (P = .73). Supplementation with n-3-PUFAs was generally well tolerated, with no evidence for increased risk of bleeding or serious adverse events.
Conclusion: In this large multinational trial among patients undergoing cardiac surgery, perioperative supplementation with n-3-PUFAs, compared with placebo, did not reduce the risk of postoperative AF. TRIAL REGISTRATION clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00970489.