BACKGROUND: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common complication after coronary artery bypass grafting operation (CABG). Experimental data have shown antiarrhythmic effects of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) on myocardial cells. Orally administered PUFA could significantly reduce the rate of postoperative AF. We assessed the efficacy of PUFA for the prevention of AF after CABG. PUFA were given intravenously to prevent variation in bioavailability.

METHODS AND RESULTS: 52 patients were randomized to the interventional group, 50 served as controls. In the control group free fatty acids (100 mg soya oil/kg body weight/day) were infused via perfusion pump, starting on admission to hospital and ending at discharge from intensive care. In the interventional group PUFA were given at a dosage of 100 mg fish oil/kg body weight/day. Primary end point was the postoperative development of AF, documented by surface ECG. Secondary end point was the length of stay in the ICU. The demographic, clinical and surgical characteristics of the patients in the two groups were similar. Postoperative AF occurred in 15 patients (30.6 %) in the control and in 9 (17.3 %) in the PUFA group ( P < 0.05). After CABG, the PUFA patients had to be treated in the ICU for a shorter time than the control patients. No adverse effects were observed.

CONCLUSIONS: Perioperative intravenous infusion of PUFA reduces the incidence of AF after CABG and leads to a shorter stay in the ICU and in hospital. Our data suggest that perioperative intravenous infusion of PUFA should be recommended for patients undergoing CABG.

key words: coronary artery bypass, hospital stay, post operation, atrial fibrillation