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Post-Surgery Atrial Fibrillation May Predict Stroke

A new study suggests that abnormal heart rhythms that develop shortly after surgery may be more serious than previously thought. The abnormality at issue, specifically atrial fibrillation or a-fib, occurs when the heartbeats chaotically. Irregular heart rhythms have not, generally, been viewed as a cause for concern after an operation, but the new study indicates that patients who experienced one or more episodes after surgery had a significant increase in their risk of having a future stroke.

A diagnosis of atrial fibrillation is known to be a major risk factor for strokes outside of surgery. Some symptoms of this condition may include heart palpitations, shortness of breath and dizziness, though some people do not have any symptoms. Abnormal heart rhythm episodes that occur after surgery, however, are often viewed more as “isolated and temporary events brought upon by the stress of going under the knife,” the New York Times reports. Across the United States, atrial fibrillation causes at least one in the every six ischemic strokes, the most common type of stroke. Ischemic strokes are often the most lethal because they disrupt blood flow to the brain.

The study followed more than 1.7 million people who had inpatient surgery in California hospitals within a three-year span, 25,000 of whom had an episode of arterial fibrillation after surgery, but not before. The researchers found that atrial fibrillation after cardiovascular surgery increased the risk of an ischemic stroke by 30 percent and doubled the risk associated with all other operations.

The irregular heart beat was previously blamed on the physiological stress that these patients were under during a major surgery. The researchers, however, are calling for more studies to be done to evaluate the association between atrial fibrillation after surgery and risk of strokes. The author of the study says these abnormalities must be taken as a warning sign, need to be communicated between patients and physicians verbally and in the patients charts, and need to be monitored after the patient is released after the operation.

If you or a loved one has suffered serious unexpected complications from surgery, you may wish to speak with a Lopez McHugh jmedical negligence injury attorney for a free and confidential consultation. Lopez McHugh’s medical malpractice lawyers can answer your questions and ensure your legal rights are protected.