The incidence of supraventricular arrhythmias is high following open-heart surgery, occurring in 25% to about 50% of patients. The most common of these arrhythmias is atrial fibrillation (AF). Postoperative AF has been associated with increased incidence of other complications and increased hospital length of stay. Atrial arrhythmias are most frequent in the first two to three days after cardiothoracic surgery, but they can occur at any point in the recovery period. Age and concomitant valular heart disease are consistently the independent factors most strongly associated with postoperative atrial fibrillation. Prevention of AF seems to be a reasonable clinical goal, and, consequently, many randomized trials have evaluated the effectiveness of pharmacological and nonpharmacological interventions for prevention of AF. The main indication for AF prophylaxis remains the shortening of length of hospital stay and possibly reduction in stroke. The optimal treatment strategies for reducing postoperative AF are not well established. Commonly used therapeutic approaches include the use of rate-controlling drugs such as β-blockers, calcium antagonists, and digoxin. Some pharmacological strategies including β-blockers, sotalol, and amiodarone have shown to reduce risk of postoperative AF and may reduce length of hospital stay. There is no convincing evidence that reducing postoperative AF reduces stroke. This review summarizes current evidence from randomized controlled trials to estimate the effect of pharmacological and non pharmacologic interventions on the occurrence of AF after open-heart surgery and its effects on postoperative outcome.
Keywords: atrial fibrillation, open-heart surgery, antiarrhythmics, sotalol, amiodarone, metoprolol
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