Well, the hits keep coming for increased stroke risk. First it was a possible chiropractic link. Now? You have to worry about going under the knife. A new study in the United States found that people that develop irregular heartbeats during surgeries increased their likelihood of stroke.

Granted, who doesn’t have a heart flutter at the prospect of being put under. I know I do. What the study authors want patients and clinicians to realize that while it may be a sign of stress, it could also signify an underlying condition.

Dr. Hooman Kamel put out a release discussing the findings. “We want patients and clinicians to be aware that having (atrial fibrillation) after surgery does have long-term implications and has to be followed up on after surgery is over.”

The group with the biggest risk are those with chronic atrial fibrillation. This causes irregular blood flow, and the condition can lead to clots that increase a patient’s risk of an ischemic stroke.

What isn’t known is the long-term effects of people that develop short-term atrial fibrillation while in the hospital due to stress. The study examined 1.7 million people who had surgeries in California between 2007 and 2011.

The results are stark for those developing atrial fibrillation and then going on to have a stroke. Out of the study participants, 24,711 were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation during their stay. Out of those, 13,952 went on to have ischemic strokes in the proceeding years following the surgery.

Accounting for other risk factors, the study’s authors concluded developing the irregular heartbeat increased ischemic stroke risk two-fold.

With the jump in risk, Kamel said that hospitals need to clearly document the condition if it occurs. Patients need to be informed and possible treatment plans developed. Once you have it, the goal is to prevent the stroke from occurring.

“Rather than viewing the occurrence of (atrial fibrillation) after surgery as a temporary condition, I think it needs to be clearly documented and communicated with the patient.”

So, even if you are the stressful type entering a hospital, be sure to discuss any heart irregularities with your doctor post-surgery. Your stress may be more than that, and you may need to be cleared or treated for any possible risk of an ischemic stroke.


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