The efficacy of glucocorticoids for the prevention of atrial fibrillation, or length of intensive care unite or hospital stay after cardiac surgery: a meta-analysis

Cardiovasc Ther. 2014 Jun;32(3):89-96. doi: 10.1111/1755-5922.12062.


Aims: cardiopulmonary bypass and cardiac surgery are associated with a significant systemic inflammatory response that has been suggested playing a causative role in the development of perioperative atrial fibrillation (POAF). The goal of this meta-analysis was to determine the efficacy of glucocorticoid prophylaxis in preventing POAF, or length of intensive care unite (ICU) or hospital stay.

Methods: A systematic electronic database literature search of Cochrane controlled trials register (2013, issue 4) and MEDLINE (1966 to April, 2013) was conducted using specific search terms for all relevant articles. Including criteria were: randomized controlled clinical trials, participants were adults (≥18 years of age) undergoing cardiac surgery, evaluated glucocorticoid prophylaxis in cardiac surgery with adequately reported data on incidence of POAF, or length of ICU or hospital stay.

Results: Forty-two randomized controlled trials involving 7621 participants were included in the meta-analysis. Overall, glucocorticoids prophylaxis significantly lowered participants' risk of developing POAF (Relative Risk [RR] 0.77; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.66-0.90), P < 0.01), reduced length of ICU stay by 0.25 day (95% CI -0.40 to -0.10, P < 0.01). Glucocorticoid prophylaxis in cardiac surgery was not associated with increased all-cause of infection (RR 0.68; 95% CI 0.58-0.78, P < 0.01) and mortality (RR 0.75; 95% CI 0.52-1.08, P = 0.12).

Conclusions: Pooled evidence suggests that glucocorticoid prophylaxis may reduce the incidence of POAF. The beneficial effect on POAF is associated with reduced length of ICU and hospital stay, and infection rate.

Keywords: Cardiac surgery; Glucocorticoid; Inflammation; Perioperative atrial fibrillation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnosis
  • Atrial Fibrillation / etiology
  • Atrial Fibrillation / mortality
  • Atrial Fibrillation / prevention & control*
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / mortality
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cross Infection / etiology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Infection Control
  • Inflammation / diagnosis
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / mortality
  • Inflammation / prevention & control*
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Length of Stay*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Glucocorticoids