Novel insights in pathophysiology of postoperative atrial fibrillation

Rohit K. Kharbanda, Mathijs S. van Schie, Yannick J.H.J. Taverne, Natasja M.S. de Groot*, Ad J.J.C. Bogers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives: Atrial extrasystoles are usually benign; however, they can also trigger atrial fibrillation. It is most likely that if atrial extrasystoles provoke a larger amount of conduction disorders and a greater degree of endo-epicardial asynchrony, the risk of postoperative atrial fibrillation increases. To test this hypothesis, we investigated the effect of programmed atrial extrasystoles on endo-epicardial conduction and postoperative atrial fibrillation. Methods: Twelve patients (58% male, age 68 ± 7 years) underwent simultaneous endo-epicardial mapping (256 electrodes) of the right atrium during sinus rhythm and programmed atrial extrasystoles provoked from the right atrial free wall. Areas of conduction block were defined as conduction delays of ≥12 milliseconds and endo-epicardial asynchrony as activation time differences of exact opposite electrodes of ≥15 milliseconds. Results: Endo-epicardial mapping data of all programmed atrial extrasystoles were analyzed and compared with sinus rhythm (median preceding cycle length = 531 milliseconds [345-787] and median sinus rhythm cycle length = 843 milliseconds [701-992]). All programmed atrial extrasystoles were aberrant (severe, moderate, and mildly aberrant, respectively, n = 6, 3, and 3) and had a mean prematurity index of 50.1 ± 11.9%. The amount of endo-epicardial asynchrony (1% [1-2] vs 6.7 [2.7-16.9], P = .006) and conduction block (1.4% [0.6-2.6] vs 8.5% [4.2-10.4], P = .005) both increased during programmed atrial extrasystoles. Interestingly, conduction block during programmed atrial extrasystoles was more severe in patients (n = 4, 33.3%) who developed postoperative atrial fibrillation (5.1% [2.9-8.8] vs 11.3% [10.1-12.1], P = .004). Conclusions: Atrial conduction disorders and endo-epicardial asynchrony, which play an important role in arrhythmogenesis, are enhanced during programmed atrial extrasystoles compared with sinus rhythm. The findings of this pilot study provide a possible explanation for enhanced vulnerability for postoperative atrial extrasystoles to induce postoperative atrial fibrillation in patients after cardiac surgery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-129
Number of pages10
JournalJTCVS Open
Early online date9 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021

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© 2021 The American Association for Thoracic Surgery


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