Postoperative arrhythmia is a major cause of morbidity and mortality after cardiac surgery for congenital heart disease. Rhythm disturbances that may be well tolerated in a normal heart often cause hemodynamic instability when they occur in the immediate postoperative period. In the face of pre-existing myocardial dysfunction resulting from preoperative pressure or volume overload, patients with congenital heart conditions are especially vulnerable to rhythm disturbances after cardiac surgery. Cardiopulmonary bypass, intraoperative injury to the conduction system and myocardium, postoperative metabolic abnormalities, electrolyte disturbances, and increased adrenergic tone in response to the stress of the surgery or inotropic agents are also known factors associated with increased risk of arrhythmia in the immediate postoperative period. Surgically related arrhythmia can also present in the late postoperative period, particularly in association with surgical incision sites and surgically induced hemodynamic abnormalities. Early and late postoperative arrhythmias are important risk factors for morbidity and mortality after surgical treatment of many forms of congenital heart disease. This review describes the incidence of the most common forms of arrhythmia and recent advances in their diagnosis and treatment.
Division of Pediatric Cardiology, David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California—Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA.
Correspondence to Glenn Wetzel, MD, PhD, 10833 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org