Management of postoperative atrial fibrillation

Takeshi Omae, Yuichi Kanmura
Journal of Anesthesia 2012, 26 (3): 429-37
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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