Incidence and predictors of supraventricular dysrhythmias after pulmonary resection

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Patients undergoing pulmonary resection were evaluated prospectively in an effort to determine the incidence of and predictors for the development of postoperative supraventricular dysrhythmias. Specifically, we wished to test the hypothesis that the incidence of postoperative supraventricular dysrhythmias is dependent on the magnitude of pulmonary resection.


One hundred sixteen patients undergoing pulmonary resection had continuous Holter monitoring preoperatively, the day of operation, and the second postoperative day, as well as continuous cardiac monitoring throughout hospitalization. Holter interpretation was blinded to extent of resection.


Twenty-six patients underwent pneumonectomy, 7 bilobectomy, 47 lobectomy, and 36 wedge resection. Twenty-six patients (22.4%) had supraventricular dysrhythmias, all atrial fibrillation ± flutter. The incidence of atrial fibrillation with pneumonectomy, bilobectomy, single lobectomy, and wedge resection was 46.1%, 14.3%, 17.0%, and 13.8%, respectively (p < 0.005 pneumonectomy versus others). Overall, 31% of patients having pneumonectomy required pharmacologic therapy for dysrhythmia compared with 16% of patients having lesser resections, (p = 0.03). The peak incidence of onset of atrial fibrillation occurred on postoperative days 2 and 3 and lasted for less than 1 to 7 days, average 2.5 days. The average age of patients with dysrhythmias (64 years) was greater than those without (58 years) (p = 0.039). Thirty pre- and postoperative variables tested were not found to be significant predictors for development of postoperative atrial fibrillation.


Atrial fibrillation occurs commonly after pulmonary resections but is not predictable. Development of atrial fibrillation is not dependent on the magnitude of pulmonary resection but is associated with the procedure pneumonectomy for reasons not elucidated.

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