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While surgical ablation (SA) for persistent atrial fibrillation (AF) can reduce recurrence of AF, its impact on longitudinal survival and health-care costs remains controversial. This study defines the clinical outcomes and costs associated with SA in patients with prior AF undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG).A total of 3745 Medicare beneficiaries with prior AF who underwent CABG in 2013 were divided into 2 groups: those with and those without concomitant SA. Risk-adjusted early (0-90 days) and late (91-364 days) postoperative outcomes and inpatient costs were compared.SA was performed in 17% of CABG patients with prior AF. Preoperative characteristics favoured patients with SA: emergent presentation (15% vs 22%), heart failure in the 2 weeks prior to CABG (31% vs 36%), chronic lung disease (27% vs 33%) and renal failure (4% vs 7%) (all P < 0.05). Risk-adjusted operative mortality and perioperative stroke rates were similar in the 2 groups. Risk-adjusted survival was similar through 90 days, but significantly better with SA after 90 days [hazard ratio (HR) = 0.58; P = 0.03]. At 1 year, the risk-adjusted incidence of cardiovascular implantable electronic device implantation was greater with SA (HR = 1.20; P = 0.01). Risk-adjusted costs for the CABG admission (HR = 1.11; P < 0.01) and inpatient care through 1 year (HR = 1.06; P = 0.02) were also greater with SA.In the US Medicare population, SA was performed in 17% of CABG-AF patients in 2013. Operative risks for mortality and stroke did not increase with SA but costs did. Patients receiving SA, however, had significantly better risk-adjusted late survival.