New-onset atrial fibrillation after anatomic lung resection: predictive factors, treatment and follow-up in a UK thoracic centre

Interact Cardiovasc Thorac Surg. 2017 Feb 1;24(2):260-264. doi: 10.1093/icvts/ivw348.


Objectives: Postoperative atrial fibrillation (POAF) increases morbidity, hospital stay and healthcare expenditure. This study aims to determine the perioperative factors correlating with POAF as well as to evaluate both treatment strategies and AF persistence beyond discharge.

Methods: The records of all patients undergoing anatomical lung resection over a 1-year period were retrospectively reviewed. Patients with a history of arrhythmia were excluded. POAF was defined by clinical diagnosis and electrocardiography. Pre- and postoperative demographic and clinical data were collected, and uni- and multivariable regression were performed to determine the factors associated with POAF.

Results: POAF occurred in 11.4% (43/377) of patients with a mean of 3.55 days postoperatively and significantly increased hospital stay (6.78 ± 4.42 vs 10.8 ± 5.8 days (P = 0.0014)). No correlation was found with gender, hypertension, ischaemic heart disease, beta-blocker use, alcohol consumption or thyroid dysfunction. However, older age (P = 0.001) and postoperative infection (P < 0.0001; χ2 = 26.03) were found to be significant uni- and multivariable predictors of POAF. Open surgery rather than video assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) (open 26/189 (13.8%); VATS 17/188 (9.0%); P = 0.150) demonstrated a tendency towards increased postoperative AF; however, this was not statistically significant. Four (9.3%) patients remained in AF on discharge, and three required long-term anticoagulation. Three (7%) patients were found to have ongoing AF at 1-month follow-up.

Conclusions: Increasing age and postoperative infection are most strongly associated with POAF. Adoption of enhanced recovery protocols, along with more rigorous monitoring and early treatment of postoperative infection may help reduce POAF and its associated morbidity. Rhythm assessment is crucial to identify persistent AF after discharge, and clinicians should be vigilant for recurrence of AF at follow-up.

Keywords: Postoperative atrial fibrillation; Risk factor; Thoracic surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnosis
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / therapy*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumonectomy / adverse effects*
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted / adverse effects*
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult