The incidence of atrial fibrillation increases with age, and therefore many elderly patients presenting for cardiac surgery have atrial fibrillation. In recent publications, increasing age has been recognized as a predictor for ablation failure. Furthermore, many surgeons are reluctant to perform a surgical ablation in elderly patients. We investigated the safety and efficacy of concomitant surgical atrial fibrillation ablation in elderly patients.
Between 2003 and 2013, 556 patients underwent concomitant surgical atrial fibrillation ablation at the University Heart Center Hamburg and served as our primary study cohort. During follow-up, rhythm monitoring was established by 24-hour Holter electrocardiogram (70.5%) or an implantable loop recorder (29.5%) at 3, 6, and 12 months postoperatively. The primary end point of the study was freedom from atrial fibrillation at 12 months follow-up and the detection of deviations from a linear association between age and risk of atrial fibrillation recurrence. A multiple logistic regression model including age as a linear term was used to identify predictors for rhythm outcome.
Mean patients' age was 68.4 ± 9.07 years, and 67.3% of the patients were male. Mean duration of atrial fibrillation was 3.5 ± 3.3 years, and mean left atrium diameters were enlarged with 50.5 ± 8.8 mm. There were no major ablation-related complications. The 30-day and 1-year survivals were 97.7% and 95.8%, respectively. The overall rate of freedom from atrial fibrillation ranged from 62% to 72% and was independent of age. The age-dependent risk of atrial fibrillation at 12 months was significantly increased in elderly patients undergoing a concomitant coronary artery bypass grafting surgery. Multiple logistic regression model revealed double valve procedures (odds ratio, 3.48; P = .020), preoperative persistent atrial fibrillation (odds ratio, 2.43; P = .001), and coronary artery bypass grafting surgery in elderly patients (odds ratio, 2.03; P = .009) as risk factors for recurrence of atrial fibrillation. Sinus rhythm at discharge (odds ratio, 0.39; P < .001) and bipolar ablation (odds ratio, 0.32; P < .001) were significant predictors for successful ablation.
Surgical atrial fibrillation ablation was safe and effective independently of age. Sinus rhythm at discharge and bipolar ablation were significant predictors for successful ablation, whereas double valve procedures, preoperative persistent atrial fibrillation, and coronary artery bypass grafting surgery in elderly patients were risk factors for recurrence of atrial fibrillation.