Prevalence of atrial fibrillation before cardiac surgery and factors associated with concomitant ablation

Patrick M McCarthy*, Charles J Davidson, Jane Kruse, Daniel J. Lerner, Mary Jo Braid-Forbes, Michelle M. McCrea, Ahmed M. Elmouelhi, Michael A. Ferguson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Objective: Surgical ablation for atrial fibrillation concomitant with cardiac surgery is now a Class I recommendation for selected patients. Understanding how the revised recommendations will affect appropriate use of surgical ablation is challenging because the reported prevalence of preoperative atrial fibrillation depends on the definition used. The objective was to determine the prevalence of atrial fibrillation in the 3 years before cardiac surgery and the rate of concomitant surgical ablation. Methods: Patients with and without a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation in the 3 years before surgical coronary artery bypass, aortic valve replacement, or mitral valve replacement/repair were identified in the 2014 Medicare Standard Analytical File. Results: Patients had prior atrial fibrillation in 28.4% of 79,134 cardiac surgeries. Prior atrial fibrillation was associated with risk factors for increased cardiac surgical morbidity/mortality, including recent heart failure, renal failure, and lung disease. Black patients were less likely to have prior atrial fibrillation but more likely to have had infrequent care for it. Isolated coronary artery bypass had the lowest prevalence but highest absolute number of prior atrial fibrillation cases. Concomitant surgical ablation was performed in 22.1% of patients with prior atrial fibrillation. Patients with mitral valve surgery were 3-fold more likely to receive surgical ablation. Women were less likely to have prior atrial fibrillation but less likely to have surgical ablation when they did. Conclusions: Medicare beneficiaries had a substantially higher prevalence of atrial fibrillation diagnoses in the 3 years before cardiac surgery than previously published rates of preoperative atrial fibrillation. Concomitant surgical ablation was performed in less than one-quarter of patients with atrial fibrillation undergoing cardiac surgery for other indications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2245-2253.e15
JournalJournal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
Issue number6
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019



  • Medicare
  • atrial fibrillation
  • atrial fibrillation surgical ablation
  • cardiac surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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