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Circulation. 2002 Jul 2;106(1):75-80.

Interventions on prevention of postoperative atrial fibrillation in patients undergoing heart surgery: a meta-analysis.

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Division of Cardiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Ontario, Hamilton, Canada.



Postoperative atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common complication of cardiac surgery and has been associated with increased incidence of other complications and increased hospital length of stay (LOS). Prevention of AF is a reasonable clinical goal, and, consequently, many randomized trials have evaluated the effectiveness of pharmacological and nonpharmacological interventions for prevention of AF. To better understand the role of various prophylactic therapies against postoperative AF, a systematic review of evidence from randomized trials was performed.


Fifty-two randomized trials (controlled by placebo or routine treatment) of beta-blockers, sotalol, amiodarone, or pacing were identified by systematic literature search. The 3 drug treatments each prevented AF with the following odds ratios (ORs): beta-blockers, 0.39 (95% CI, 0.28 to 0.52); sotalol, 0.35 (95% CI, 0.26 to 0.49); and amiodarone, 0.48 (95% CI, 0.37 to 0.61). Pacing was also effective; for biatrial pacing, the OR was 0.46 (95% CI, 0.30 to 0.71). The influence of pharmacological interventions on LOS was as follows: -0.66 day (95% CI, 2.04 to 0.72) for beta-blockers; -0.40 day (95% CI, 0.87 to 0.08) for sotalol; and -0.91 day (95% CI, 1.59 to -0.23) for amiodarone. The influence for biatrial pacing was -1.54 day (95% CI, -2.85 to -0.24). The incidence of stroke was 1.2% in all the treatment groups combined and 1.4% in controls (OR, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.46 to 1.74).


Beta-blockers, sotalol, and amiodarone all reduce risk of postoperative AF with no marked difference between them. There is evidence that use of these drugs will reduce LOS. Biatrial pacing is a promising new treatment opportunity. There was no evidence that reducing postoperative AF reduces stroke; however, data on stroke are incomplete.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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