Atrial fibrillation after surgery: Common and undertreated?
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After surgery unrelated to the heart, a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation (afib) — a heart rhythm disorder that raises the risk of stroke — may be more common than previously thought. And these cases appear to be undertreated, according to a study published July 25, 2022, in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Among the 4,231 people in the study, 13% had their first-ever bout of afib after surgery unrelated to the heart, most often within a week of the operation. Stress and inflammation related to surgery may trigger afib, the researchers postulated.
Compared with people who developed afib unrelated to a surgical procedure, those diagnosed with afib following surgery were less likely to be taking anti-clotting drugs to lower their stroke risk.
The common perception that afib that emerges after surgery is less serious than other types of afib may be to blame for this discrepancy. However, during the average follow-up of just over six years, both groups had similar risks for stroke, transient ischemic attack (known as TIA or ministroke), and death, the researchers found.
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About the Author
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
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