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Intraoperative dexamethasone on left atrial function and postoperative atrial fibrillation in cardiac surgical patients


Postoperative new-onset atrial fibrillation (PNAF) is very common after cardiac surgery. The inflammatory response due to surgery and cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) may contribute to PNAF by inducing atrial dysfunction [1]. Corticosteroids reduce the inflammatory response and may thus reduce atrial dysfunction and PNAF [2]. The aim of this study was to determine whether dexamethasone protects from left atrial dysfunction and PNAF in cardiac surgical patients.


Patients undergoing cardiac surgery were randomized to a single dose of dexamethasone (1 mg/kg) or placebo after inducing anesthesia. Transesophageal echocardiography was performed in patients after CPB. The primary outcome was left atrial total ejection fraction (LA-TEF) after sternal closure; secondary outcomes included left atrial diameter and PNAF, detected by Holter monitoring.


Sixty-two patients were included. Baseline characteristics were well balanced. Postoperative LA-TEF was 36.4% in the dexamethasone group and 40.2% in the placebo group (P = 0.15) (Figure 1). Secondary echocardiographic outcomes were also insignificant (Table 1). The incidence of PNAF was 30% in the dexamethasone group and 39% in the placebo group (P = 0.47).

Figure 1
figure 1

Primary outcome preoperatively and postoperatively in dexamethasone and placebo groups.

Table 1 Secondary postoperative echocardiographic parameters in both groups


Intraoperative high-dose dexamethasone did not have any protective effect on postoperative LA-TEF or dimension and did not reduce the risk of PNAf in cardiac surgical patients.


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  2. Chaney , et al.: Chest. 2002, 121: 921-923. 10.1378/chest.121.3.921

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Jacob, K., Dieleman, S., Nathoe, H. et al. Intraoperative dexamethasone on left atrial function and postoperative atrial fibrillation in cardiac surgical patients. Crit Care 18 (Suppl 1), P182 (2014).

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