Postoperative atrial fibrillation: The role of the inflammatory response

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Abstract

Objective:

Abnormal atrial conduction has been shown to be a substrate for postoperative atrial fibrillation (POAF). This study aimed to determine the relationship between the location of the atrial reentry responsible for POAF, and degree of atrial inflammation.

Methods:

Normal mongrel dogs (n = 18) were divided into 3 groups: anesthesia alone (anesthesia), lateral right atriotomy (atriotomy), and lateral right atriotomy with anti-inflammatory therapy (steroid). Conduction properties of the right and left atria (RA and LA) were examined 3 days postoperatively by mapping. Activation was observed during burst pacing–induced AF. The RA and LA myeloperoxidase activity was measured to quantitate the degree of inflammation.

Results:

Sustained AF (>2 minutes) was induced in 5 of 6 animals in the atriotomy group, but in none in the anesthesia or steroid groups. All sustained AF originated from around the RA incision. Three of these animals had an incisional reentrant tachycardia around the right atriotomy and 2 had a focal activation arising from the RA during AF. The LA activations in these animals were passive from the RA activation. The RA activation of the atriotomy group was more inhomogeneous than that of the anesthesia group (inhomogeneity index: 2.0 ± 0.2 vs 1.0 ± 0.1, P < .01). Steroid therapy significantly normalized the RA activation after the atriotomy (1.2 ± 0.1, P < .01). The inhomogeneity of the atrial conduction correlated with the myeloperoxidase activity (r = 0.774, P < .001).

Conclusions:

Reentrant circuits responsible for POAF are dependent on the degree of inflammation and rotate around the atriotomy. Anti-inflammatory therapy decreased the risk of postoperative AF.

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