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Incidence and prognostic impact of new-onset atrial fibrillation in patients with septic shock: a prospective observational study

Rainer Meierhenrich*, Elisa Steinhilber, Christian Eggermann, Manfred Weiss, Sami Voglic, Daniela Bögelein, Albrecht Gauss, Michael Georgieff and Wolfgang Stahl

Author Affiliations

Department of Anesthesiology, University of Ulm, Prittwitzstr. 43, 89075 Ulm, Germany

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Critical Care 2010, 14:R108  doi:10.1186/cc9057

See related commentary by Seguin and Launey,

Published: 10 June 2010



Since data regarding new-onset atrial fibrillation (AF) in septic shock patients are scarce, the purpose of the present study was to evaluate the incidence and prognostic impact of new-onset AF in this patient group.


We prospectively studied all patients with new-onset AF and all patients suffering from septic shock in a non-cardiac surgical intensive care unit (ICU) during a 13 month period.


During the study period, 687 patients were admitted to the ICU, of which 58 patients were excluded from further analysis due to pre-existing chronic or intermittent AF. In 49 out of the remaining 629 patients (7.8%) new-onset AF occurred and 50 out of the 629 patients suffered from septic shock. 23 out of the 50 patients with septic shock (46%) developed new-onset AF. There was a steady, significant increase in C-reactive protein (CRP) levels before onset of AF in septic shock patients. ICU mortality in septic shock patients with new-onset AF was 10/23 (44%) compared with 6/27 (22%) in septic shock patients with maintained sinus rhythm (SR) (P = 0.14). During a 2-year follow-up there was a trend towards an increased mortality in septic shock patients with new-onset AF, but the difference did not reach statistical significance (P = 0.075). The median length of ICU stay among surviving patients was longer in patients with new-onset AF compared to those with maintained SR (30 versus 17 days, P = 0.017). The success rate to restore SR was 86%. Failure to restore SR was associated with increased ICU mortality (71.4% versus 21.4%, P = 0.015).


AF is a common complication in septic shock patients and is associated with an increased length of ICU stay among surviving patients. The increase in CRP levels before onset of AF may support the hypothesis that systemic inflammation is an important trigger for AF.