Does new-onset postoperative atrial fibrillation after coronary artery bypass grafting affect postoperative quality of life?

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New-onset postoperative atrial fibrillation (POAF) is a common complication after cardiac surgery. We investigated the effect of POAF on quality of life after coronary artery bypass grafting.


All patients who underwent nonemergency coronary artery bypass grafting between March 2009 and January 2011 were requested to complete a Short Form-36 Health Survey before and 6 months after the procedure. Norm-based scores of 8 health status domains and 2 component summary scores were calculated. Only patients undergoing first-time coronary artery bypass grafting, with no history of atrial fibrillation, were included in the analyses.


Of 1608 patients, 360 (22.4%) had POAF diagnosed. Twenty-eight patients died within half a year after the procedure (1.7% in the no POAF group and 1.8% in the POAF group; P = .90). After excluding these patients, data from 1580 patients were analyzed. Preoperative questionnaires were returned by 66% of the patients and postoperative questionnaires by 65%. Preoperative scores did not differ between patients with and without POAF in any subcategory (0/10). After the procedure, 4 of 10 scores were worse in the group with POAF compared to patients without POAF. Patients without POAF improved in all subcategories (10/10) after the procedure, whereas those with POAF did so in only 7 of 10. Multilinear regression showed POAF to be an independent negative predictor for improved quality of life 6 months postoperatively in 7 of 10 subcategories, including both mental and physical component summary scores.


New-onset POAF does affect 6-month postoperative mental and physical health, possibly warranting more aggressive POAF treatment.

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