A new study suggested that patients undergoing surgery who had irregular heartbeats (also known as atrial fibrillation) could have significantly increased risks of stroke even months after their operation.
More than 33 people worldwide suffer from atrial fibrillation and while it is already common knowledge that patients with atrial fibrillation are three times as likely to suffer from strokes than those who don’t have atrial fibrillation.
But according to a new study which analyzed the risk of strokes around the time of serious surgery, there is a clear pattern as to how often strokes occur with atrial fibrillation patients that undergo surgery.
1.7 million patients were included in the study, all in California, who underwent inpatients surgery between 2007 and 2011. Researchers followed the patients over a period of two years.
More than 24,7000 patients (a 1.5 percent) had been experiencing atrial fibrillation when they underwent surgery and in the next two years, 14,000 of the patients that had been followed throughout the study suffered ischemic stroke in the time that followed the surgery.
Even after non-cardiac surgery, patients that suffered from atrial fibrillation had twice the risk of developing ischemic strokes and a 30 percent higher risk of stroke if they underwent cardiac surgery.
The study was led by Dr. Gino Gialdini from the Weil Cornell Medical College in New York. He believed that the conclusions of the study will be very important for better caring for patients in this specific situation. As such, doctors will be able to alter treatment protocols so as to reduce the risk of strokes for patients about to undergo surgery.
Dr. Gialdini added that the current study wasn’t exhaustive and that further work is necessary to correctly determine the link between atrial fibrillation and the increased stroke risk around surgery.
Dr. Nicholas Skipitaris, director of cardiac electrophysiology at the Lenox Hill Heart and Vascular instityte in NYC said that the study clearly connects atrial fibrillation occurring during the time of surgery to long-term stroke risk. As such, the study had immense implications in the treatment of such patients, because they were more likely to require attentive rhythm monitoring as well as complex anticoagulation protocols so as to prevent or reduce strokes from occurring in the future.
The study will appear in the 13th issue of the Journal of the American Medical association, as it is scheduled to be published on the 13th of August.