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Abnormal Heartbeat After Bypass a Bad Sign
Date:4/24/2009

Atrial fibrillation ups long-term risk of dying, researchers report

FRIDAY, April 24 (HealthDay News) -- People who develop the heartbeat abnormality called atrial fibrillation after heart bypass surgery are at increased long-term risk of dying, a new study finds.

The report sounds a warning bell for doctors about an issue that has not been a matter of major concern, said Giovanni Filardo, director of the department of epidemiology at the Baylor University Medical Center Institute for Health Care Research and Improvement. He was to present the findings Friday at an American Heart Association meeting in Washington, D.C.

"After this surgery, almost 50 percent of patients develop atrial fibrillation," Filardo said. "Historically, it has been regarded as a transient problem, and therefore surgeons have not paid too much attention to it."

But data on almost 7,000 people who had bypass surgery at Baylor between 1997 and 2006 revealed a 29 percent higher death rate among those who did not have atrial fibrillation before the bypass but developed it after the procedure, he said.

The 10-year mortality rate was 47.7 percent for those who developed postoperative atrial fibrillation, compared to 30.6 percent for those who did not.

It's not clear whether the increased risk is directly due to atrial fibrillation, a condition in which the upper chambers of the heart quiver rather than pumping properly, allowing blood clots to form, Filardo said. "We don't know whether the atrial fibrillation might be a marker for something else," he said.

A second study to determine whether atrial fibrillation is itself responsible for the increased risk is in the planning stage, Filardo noted. "We hope to start early next year," he said.

The new study will include only people who do not have atrial fibrillation before they undergo bypass surgery. "If they develop atrial fibrillation, we will study the resu
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