Dr. Richard Lee, surgical director of the Center for Heart Rhythm Disorders at Northwestern Memorial's Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, said patients who are undergoing surgery for other cardiac issues, don't always have their atrial fibrillation problem fixed.
"This study indicates that atrial fibrillation should be surgically treated when a patient is undergoing another cardiac surgery procedure," Lee said in a statement. "By fixing two issues at once, we can improve patient outcomes."
Only 38 percent of patients with abnormal heart rhythm receive simultaneous treatment at the time of cardiac surgery. However, at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, 90 percent of patients with a history of atrial fibrillation were treated when they had cardiac surgery.
Some patients with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms and are unaware of their condition until it's discovered during a physical examination, but those with symptoms may experience palpitations or sensations of a racing, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain or lightheadedness.
"Not all patients require surgery for atrial fibrillation," said Dr. Brad Knight, medical director for the Center for Heart Rhythm Disorders. "However, this study suggests that it should be strongly considered when the patient is already undergoing another cardiac surgery procedure, as addressing both issues simultaneously may positively impact long-term heart health."
The findings were published in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.