Early, de novo atrial fibrillation after coronary artery bypass grafting: Facts and features

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Knowledge of the mechanism underlying post-operative atrial fibrillation (PoAF) is essential for development of preventive measures. The incidence and characteristics of both PoAF and supraventricular premature beats triggering PoAF, their interrelationship and alterations over time have never been examined. The goal of this study is therefore to examine the correlation between the incidence and characteristics of supraventricular premature beats (SVPBs) and PoAF episodes in patients undergoing CABG in the first five post-operative days.


PoAF episodes (N = 327) and SVPBs (N = 141,873) were characterized in 29 patients (63 ± 9 years; 22 (76%) male) undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting and compared with a control group of patients without PoAF by using continuous cardiac rhythm monitoring during the first 5 days after surgery.


Most patients (N = 18, 62%) had multiple PoAF episodes; the median number of PoAF episodes per patient was 3 and varied between 1 and 139. The majority of PoAF episodes developed on the second and third post-operative day (55%). The averaged median duration of PoAF episodes per patient was 469 ± 1085 min. Patients with PoAF had a higher SVPBs burden compared to subjects without PoAF (0.9% vs 0.2%, P < .001). SVPBs initiating PoAF had shorter coupling intervals than SVPBs which did not initiate PoAF episodes (58% vs 64% (P < .001) and were preceded by heart rate acceleration.


PoAF episodes are mainly repetitive though transient in nature. There was a considerable inter-individual variation in both AF and SVPB characteristics, despite a similar underlying clinical profile. The SVPB burden is higher in patients with PoAF and the mode of onset is characterized by short coupled SVPBs. Determination of individual post-operative dysrhythmia profiles enables identification of patients at risk for developing PoAF.

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