Predictors, prevention, and long-term prognosis of atrial fibrillation after coronary artery bypass graft operations

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 1987 Sep;94(3):331-5.


Multiple trials have suggested the use of digoxin, digoxin and propranolol, or timolol to prevent atrial fibrillation after coronary artery bypass grafting. No trial has evaluated the efficacy of digoxin verus propranolol. Furthermore, the predictors of postoperative atrial fibrillation and the long-term consequence of atrial fibrillation that reverts to sinus rhythm have not been established. One hundred fifty patients were randomized to receive no drug, propranolol (20 mg every 6 hours), or digoxin (0.5 mg followed by 0.25 mg daily). Twenty-seven patients were excluded from data analysis. In the remaining 123 patients, no preoperative parameter (age, sex, diabetes, hypertension, smoking, electrocardiographic p wave morphology, or preoperative digoxin or propranolol therapy), intraoperative parameter (bypass time, aortic cross-clamp time, or number of vessels bypassed), or postoperative parameter (peak creatinine kinase, congestive heart failure, or pericarditis) by univariate or multivariate analysis predicted patients at risk for atrial fibrillation. Sustained atrial fibrillation developed in 37.5% of control and 32.6% of digoxin-treated patients. Only 16.2% of propranolol-treated patients had sustained atrial fibrillation (p less than 0.03). There were no in-hospital complications in those patients with atrial fibrillation. After 26 +/- 7 months follow-up, those patients with postoperative atrial fibrillation had no increased incidence of angina, cerebral vascular accident, myocardial infarction, or sudden death. Therefore, in this select population, propranolol prophylaxis is effective but discretionary.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Fibrillation / etiology
  • Atrial Fibrillation / prevention & control*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Coronary Artery Bypass / adverse effects*
  • Digoxin / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Propranolol / therapeutic use
  • Random Allocation
  • Risk
  • Time Factors


  • Digoxin
  • Propranolol