Significance of isolated postoperative atrial fibrillation in thoracic aortic aneurysm repair

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2024 Jan 6:S0022-5223(24)00002-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2023.12.023. Online ahead of print.


Objective: Although postoperative atrial fibrillation has been shown to be associated with worse survival after thoracic aortic surgery, its effect on outcomes independently from other postoperative complications is not well understood.

Methods: This is a single-center retrospective study of patients who underwent open thoracic aortic aneurysm repair between March 2005 and March 2021. Postoperative atrial fibrillation was defined as new-onset atrial fibrillation that developed during the index hospital stay. Patients with preoperative atrial fibrillation were excluded. Postoperative major complications included reoperation for bleeding, respiratory failure, acute renal failure, and stroke. Variables associated with postoperative atrial fibrillation were analyzed with multivariable regression. Survival of patients without major complications was compared between patients without atrial fibrillation and patients with postoperative atrial fibrillation after propensity score matching for baseline and intraoperative characteristics.

Results: Of 1454 patients, 520 (35.8%) were observed to have postoperative atrial fibrillation. Patients with postoperative atrial fibrillation had a higher rate of postoperative major complications than those without atrial fibrillation (20.2% vs 12.2%, P < .001). Ten-year survival was 82.0% in patients with postoperative atrial fibrillation and 87.0% in patients without atrial fibrillation (P = .008). In the cohort of patients without complications, 10-year survival was similar between patients with and without postoperative atrial fibrillation after propensity score matching (83.6% vs 83.8%, P = .75).

Conclusions: Postoperative atrial fibrillation is common after open proximal thoracic aortic aneurysm repair. Although development of major postoperative complications is associated with postoperative atrial fibrillation and decreased long-term survival, isolated postoperative atrial fibrillation does not appear to influence long-term survival.

Keywords: aortic surgery; postoperative atrial fibrillation; thoracic aortic aneurysm repair.