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J Anesth. 2012 Jun;26(3):429-37. doi: 10.1007/s00540-012-1330-9. Epub 2012 Jan 25.

Management of postoperative atrial fibrillation.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Fujimoto Hayasuzu Hospital, Miyakonojo, Miyazaki, Japan.


The impact of postoperative atrial fibrillation (PAF) on patient outcomes has prompted intense investigation into the optimal methods for prevention and treatment of this complication. In the prevention of PAF, β-blockers and amiodarone are particularly effective and are recommended by guidelines. However, their use requires caution due to the possibility of drug-related adverse effects. Aside from these risks, perioperative prophylactic treatment with statins seems to be effective for preventing PAF and is associated with a low incidence of adverse effects. PAF can be treated by rhythm control, heart-rate control, and antithrombotic therapy. For the purpose of heart rate control, β-blockers, calcium-channel antagonists, and amiodarone are used. In patients with unstable hemodynamics, cardioversion may be performed for rhythm control. Antithrombotic therapy is used in addition to heart-rate maintenance therapy in cases of PAF >48-h duration or in cases with a history of cerebrovascular thromboembolism. Anticoagulation is the first choice for antithrombotic therapy, and anticoagulation management should focus on maintaining international normalized ratio (INRs) in the 2.0-3.0 range in patients <75 years of age, whereas prothrombin-time INR should be controlled to the 1.6-2.6 range in patients ≥75 years of age. In the future, dabigatran could be used for perioperative management of PAF, because it does not require regular monitoring and has a quick onset of action with short serum half-life. Preventing PAF is an important goal and requires specific perioperative management as well as other approaches. PAF is also associated with lifestyle-related diseases, which emphasizes the ongoing need for appropriate lifestyle management in individual patients.

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