Postoperative ventricular arrhythmias after cardiac surgery: Immediate- and long-term significance

Béatrice Brembilla-Perrot, Jean Pierre Villemot, Jean Pierre Carteaux, Annick Haouzi, Danièle Amrein, Bruno Schöth, Pierre Houriez, Daniel Beurrier, Karim Djaballah, Anne Claire Vançon, Marc Nippert

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20 Scopus citations


AF is frequent after cardiac surgery. However, ventricular arrhythmias are less known. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the causes and the prognostic significance of severe ventricular arrhythmias occurring after cardiac surgery. For 10 years, among 2,100 cardiac surgeries, 16 (0.8%) patients (13 men, 3 women; age 49-71 years, mean 62 ± 9 years) without previous ventricular arrhythmias, with preserved left ventricular ejection fraction, and without acute cause of ventricular arrhythmias, developed VF (n = 4) or a sustained VT between 3 days and 3 weeks after cardiac surgery (coronary artery bypass grafting [n = 6], valve replacement [n = 10]). Rapid AF (n = 5) or slow AF (n = 1) were present at the time of VT/VF. Programmed ventricular stimulation occurred after up to three extrastimuli in the basal state and after infusion of 20-30 μg of isoproterenol. An echocardiogram, coronary angiography, Holter monitoring with heart rate variability (HRV) study were performed. Ventricular stimulation was negative in six patients (with AF); sustained and clinical VT was induced in 10 patients with a left ventricular ejection fraction > 0.40, except in one patient. Valvular prothesis and coronary bypass graftings were normal. In all patients, HRV was normal before surgery and decreased after cardiac surgery; before versus after surgery, respectively, HR 69 ± 9 and 89 ± 30 beats/min (P < 0.01), SDNN 117 ± 31 and 50 ± 11 ms (P < 0.001), low frequency (LF) 474 ± 658 and 51 ± 40 ms2 (P < 0.05), high frequency(HF) 115 ± 23 and 33 ± 32 ms2 (P < 0.05), LF:HF 4 ± 3 and 1 ± 0.6 (P < 0.01). Follow-up lasted from 6 months to 10 years (mean 3 ± 2 years). In patients without induced VT, 1 patient died from asystole, 1 had an ICD but no subsequent events, and the other 4 untreated patients are free of events. Patients with induced VT were treated with amiodarone and β-blockers except in one patient who died from extracardiac complications. Six of nine patients had no inducible VT with this treatment and are alive; 3 patients had inducible VT, 1 died suddenly before implantation of ICD, and 2 patients are alive with an ICD; recurrent VTs were noted in one patient and received an ICD. In conclusion, recent heart surgery may increase the risk of ventricular arrhythmias. The reduction of indexes reflecting sympathetic and parasympathetic tone could facilitate the occurrence of atrial arrhythmias (and then VT) in patients without ventricular arrhythmogenic substrate or the development of VT/VF in patients with a latent previous ventricular arrhythmogenic substrate. In patients without inducible VT, the prognosis is excellent and an ICD is not recommended in these patients. In those with inducible VT, there is a high incidence of responders to antiarrhythmic drugs with a favorable prognosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-625
Number of pages7
JournalPACE - Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - Feb 1 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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