Objective Inconsistent definitions of atrial fibrillation after coronary artery bypass grafting have caused uncertainty about its incidence and risk. We examined the extent to which limiting the definition to post–coronary artery bypass grafting atrial fibrillation events requiring treatment underestimates its incidence and impact on 30-day mortality. Methods We assessed in-hospital atrial fibrillation and 30-day mortality in 9268 consecutive patients without preoperative atrial fibrillation who underwent isolated coronary artery bypass grafting at 5 US hospitals (2004-2010). Patients who experienced 1 or more episode of post–coronary artery bypass grafting atrial fibrillation detected via continuous in-hospital electrocardiogram/telemetry monitoring were divided into those for whom Society of Thoracic Surgeons data (applying the definition “atrial fibrillation/flutter requiring treatment”) also indicated atrial fibrillation versus those for whom it did not. Risk-adjusted 30-day mortality was compared between these 2 groups and with patients without post–coronary artery bypass grafting atrial fibrillation. Results Risk-adjusted incidence of post–coronary artery bypass grafting atrial fibrillation incidence was 33.4% (27.0% recorded in Society of Thoracic Surgeons data, 6.4% missed). Patients with post–coronary artery bypass grafting atrial fibrillation missed by Society of Thoracic Surgeons data had a significantly greater risk of 30-day mortality (odds ratio, 2.08, 95% confidence interval, 1.17-3.69) than those captured. By applying the significant underestimation of post–coronary artery bypass grafting atrial fibrillation incidence we observed (odds ratio [Society of Thoracic Surgeons vs missed], 0.78; 95% confidence interval, 0.72-0.83) to the approximately 150,000 patients undergoing isolated coronary artery bypass grafting in the United States each year estimates this increased risk of mortality is carried by 9600 patients (95% confidence interval, 9420-9780) annually. Conclusions Defining post–coronary artery bypass grafting atrial fibrillation as episodes requiring treatment significantly underestimates incidence and misses patients at a significantly increased risk for mortality. Further research is needed to determine whether this increased risk carries over into long-term outcomes and whether it is mediated by differences in treatment and management.
- 30-day mortality
- atrial fibrillation
- coronary artery bypass grafting
- postoperative complication arrhythmia