Results from a new study suggest that atrial fibrillation (AF) may pose a significant threat to patients undergoing surgery, especially those having non-cardiac procedures.
In an analysis of more than 1.7 million patients, researchers found that perioperative AF was associated with twice the risk of stroke in patients who had non-cardiac surgery. Patients who underwent a cardiac procedure saw a 30% increase in their stroke risk.
"Our results may have significant implications for the care of perioperative patients," the study authors wrote. "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."
Unlike many reports of post-surgery stroke that focus on early risk, the new study examined long-term risk, following patients out to an average of 2.1 years after surgery, the authors wrote. The researchers called for additional studies to better evaluate the risk and come up with mitigation strategies.
AF, which affects more than 33 million patients around the world, is a known stroke risk. Patients with chronic AF have are 3 times more likely to suffer a stroke, and strokes in AF-patients tend to result in longer hospital stays, greater disability and higher risk of death, according to the study.
The research was published online today in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.