Does off-pump coronary artery bypass reduce the incidence of post-operative atrial fibrillation? A question revisited

Thanos Athanasiou, Omer Aziz, Omar Mangoush, Sharif Al-Ruzzeh, Sujit Nair, Vitali Malinovski, Roberto Casula, Brian Glenville
European Journal of Cardio-thoracic Surgery 2004, 26 (4): 701-10
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common post-operative complication in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting, with an increased incidence associated with advancing age. This study aims to determine whether off-pump coronary artery bypass (OPCAB) reduces the incidence of AF in a generalized population (mean age <70 years). A meta-analysis was performed including all randomised and propensity score matched non-randomised studies published between 2001 and 2003 reporting a comparison between the two techniques in a generalised patient group (average age <70 years). The primary outcome of interest was post-operative AF. Sensitivity analysis was performed to evaluate consistency of the calculated treatment effect. Fourteen studies fulfilled our inclusion criteria, including a total of 16,505 subjects. The incidence of AF was 19% (1612/8265) in the off-pump group versus 24% (1976/8240) in the on-pump group. When considering only the 11 randomised studies (2207 subjects), we found a significant reduction in the incidence of post-operative AF in the off-pump group using a random-effect model (odds ratio (OR)=0.60, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.45-0.82, and chi-square of heterogeneity=18.02, P=0.05). Sensitivity analysis highlighted one randomised study causing funnel plot asymmetry, exclusion of which resulted in a significant reduction in the incidence of post-operative AF in the off-pump group (OR=0.71, 95% CI=0.57-0.90), with a non-significant heterogeneity of 3.91 (P=0.92). When only studies of high quality were considered (898 patients), no significant difference was seen between on and off-pump groups (OR=0.78, 95% CI=0.57-1.07, and heterogeneity=0.53, P=0.91). This may be due to small number of patients in this group. Our results suggest that although OPCAB surgery may reduce the incidence of post-operative AF in a generalised population (age <70 years) this finding is not clearly supported by high quality randomised trials. Although previous evidence suggests that the incidence of post-operative AF is reduced in an elderly population (>70 years) with off-pump surgery, our results show that the evidence is less clear in a younger population group. The question of whether off-pump surgery in this patient group results in a lower rate of post-operative AF remains to be answered by further high quality randomised research.

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