Perioperative atrial fibrillation (AF), often considered a fleeting condition brought on by the stresses of surgery, should be taken more seriously as a potential risk factor for stroke, warns a new study.
In the August 13 issue of JAMA, researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, N.Y., write that patients who suffer an episode of perioperative AF, especially those undergoing non-cardiac surgery, could be at increased risk of future stroke events.
The study followed more than 1.7 million patients undergoing inpatient surgery over a 2-year period who'd never previously exhibited AF. About 25,000 of them had an AF episode around the time of their operations. Compared to other patients, those who suffered AF while undergoing non-cardiac surgery nearly doubled their risk of a future stroke, while those receiving cardiac surgery increased their risk by 30%.
"Our results may have significant implications for the care of perioperative patients," the authors write. "The associations we found suggest that while many cases of perioperative AF after cardiac surgery may be an isolated response to the stress of surgery, perioperative AF after non-cardiac surgery may be similar to other etiologies of AF in regard to future thromboembolic risk."