Incidence and risk factors of post-operative cognitive decline after ablation for atrial fibrillation

BMC Cardiovasc Disord. 2021 Jul 14;21(1):341. doi: 10.1186/s12872-021-02139-7.


Background: Catheter ablation is widely used in atrial fibrillation (AF) management. In this study, we are aimed to investigate the incidence of postprocedural cognitive decline in a larger population undergoing AF ablation under local anesthesia, and to evaluate the associated risk factors.

Methods: This study included 287 patients with normal cognitive functions, with 190 ablated AF patients (study group) and 97 AF patients who are awaiting ablation (practice group). We assessed the neuropsychological function of each patient for twice (study group: 24 h prior to ablation and 48 h post ablation; practice group: on the day of inclusion and 72 h later but before ablation). The reliable change index was used to analyze the neuropsychological testing scores and to identify postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD) at 48 h post procedure. Patients in the study group accepting a 6-month follow up were given an extra cognitive assessment.

Results: Among the ablated AF patients, 13.7% (26/190) had POCD at 48 h after the ablation procedure. Multivariable analysis revealed that, a minimum intraoperative activated clotting time (ACT) < 300 s (OR 3.82, 95% CI 1.48-9.96, P = 0.006) and not taking oral anticoagulants within one month prior to ablation(OR 10.35, 95% CI 3.54-30.27, P < 0.001) were significantly related to POCD at 48 h post-ablation. In 172 patients of the study group accepting a 6-month follow up, there were 23 patients with POCD at 48 h post-ablation and 149 patients without POCD. The global cognitive scores were decreased in 48 h post-operation tests (0 ± 1 vs - 0.15 ± 1.10, P < 0.001) and improved significantly at 6 months post-operation (0 ± 1 vs 0.43 ± 0.92, P < 0.001). In the 23 patients with POCD at 48 h after the procedure, global cognitive performance at 6 months was not significantly different compared with that at baseline (- 0.05 ± 1.25 vs - 0.19 ± 1.33, P = 0.32), while 13 of them had higher scores than baseline level.

Conclusions: Incident of POCD after ablation procedures is high in the short term. Inadequate periprocedural anticoagulation are possible risk factors. However, most POCD are reversible at 6 months, and a general improvement was observed in cognitive function at 6 months after ablation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnosis
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology
  • Atrial Fibrillation / surgery*
  • Catheter Ablation / adverse effects*
  • Cognition*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / epidemiology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome