OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the role of the autonomic nervous system for the development of atrial fibrillation (AF) after coronary artery bypass surgery.
DESIGN: Eighty patients without a previous history of AF were included. The sympathetic and parasympathetic activity were evaluated by the analysis of heart rate variability (HRV) in the frequency domain from 24-h Holter recordings and by measuring neuropeptides (neuropeptide Y, chromogranin A, chromogranin B, and pancreatic polypeptide (PP)) and catecholamines, obtained pre- and postoperatively.
RESULTS: Preoperatively, patients (36.3%) developing AF postoperatively showed a statistically significant less circadian variation in the HRV variables, the high-frequency (HF) component (p = 0.013) and the low-frequency (LF)/HF ratio (p = 0.007), than patients remaining in sinus rhythm. The HF component and PP. both reflecting parasympathetic activity, and all other variables in the frequency domain, decreased significantly after surgery in both patient groups (p < 0.0001). Although catecholamines increased significantly postoperatively in both patient groups, neither catecholamines nor neuropeptides expressing sympathetic activity, differed between the two groups. PP was, however, significantly higher in patients with postoperative AF than in those with sinus rhythm postoperatively on day 1.
CONCLUSION: The diminished circadian variation in HRV before surgery and the indirect signs of a higher parasympathetic activity in patients developing postoperative AF compared with patients remaining in sinus rhythm, may indicate a propensity for AF.
2001. Vol. 35, no 4, 238-44 p.