Atrial fibrillation is a heart rhythm abnormality where the heart's upper chambers beat chaotically. This occurs commonly after surgery, particularly cardiac surgery, because of the stress of surgery. For years its been thought that this condition is not problematic in a majority of patients. However, such a condition causes one in six ischemic strokes. As many as a third of these patients will suffer an episode. A new study published by JAMA, followed 1.7 million people who developed atrial fibrillation for the first time after surgery and concluded that about 25,000 of these patients went on to have an episode after their operations. Atrial fibrillation after cardiovascular surgery increased the risk of a future stroke by 30%.
It is now clear that patients who suffer heart rhythm abnormalities after surgery must be taken very seriously and requires close monitoring. Atrial fibrillation often goes unrecognized. Signs of this condition include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and dizziness. However, many have no symptoms at all.
Anticoagulant medication is often used to treat this condition, such as Coumadin. It is important to appreciate that atrial fibrillation after surgery poses a serious risk of stroke.
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