Background and methods: Atrial flutter after pediatric lung transplantation has not previously been reported. We reviewed the records of 78 children who underwent lung transplantation at our institution to characterize the incidence and clinical course of postoperative atrial flutter. The diagnosis was based on either a surface or transesophageal electrocardiogram that demonstrated a fixed cycle length atrial tachycardia that did not require ventricular participation.
Results: Atrial flutter occurred in seven of 62 (11.3%) patients who underwent bilateral sequential lung transplantation, zero of 10 patients after single lung transplantation, and zero of six patients after heart-lung transplantation. Ages of the patients with atrial flutter ranged from 2.5 months to 14 years. Electrocardiographic findings among patients varied with respect to p-wave morphology and atrioventricular conduction. No patient had a prior atrial arrhythmia or coexisting structural cardiac disease. None had atrial flutter in relation to a rejection episode. Two patients had atrial flutter transiently during the first postoperative day, but it resolved spontaneously. Five patients had recurrent atrial flutter that began 13 +/- 7 days after the operation. The mean cycle length of atrial flutter was 196 +/- 65 msec. The arrhythmia was unresponsive to digoxin in four patients to whom it was administered. It was controlled with procainamide in four patients and with flecainide in one. At 1 and 6 months after lung transplantation, procainamide was discontinued in two patients without recurrence. One patient died of bronchiolitis obliterans 6 months after the operation while still receiving flecainide. Two patients continue to receive procainamide 4 and 7 months after transplantation.
Conclusions: (1) Atrial flutter commonly occurs after bilateral lung transplantation in children. (2) Electrocardiographic manifestations are variable. (3) Type 1 antiarrhythmic agents provide satisfactory control.