U-shaped relationship between tissue docosahexaenoic acid and atrial fibrillation following cardiac surgery

R. G. Metcalf, G. V. Skuladottir, O. S. Indridason, T. R. Sullivan, L. Bjorgvinsdottir, P. Sanders, D. O. Arnar, R. A. Gibson, R. Heidarsdottir, L. G. Cleland, R. Palsson, A. L. Farquharson, G. D. Young, M. J. James

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


Background/objectives: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating the effect of fish oil supplementation on postoperative atrial fibrillation (POAF) following cardiac surgery have produced mixed results. In this study, we examined relationships between levels of red blood cell (RBC) n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) and the incidence of POAF. Subjects/methods: We used combined data (n=355) from RCTs conducted in Australia and Iceland. The primary end point was defined as POAF lasting >10 min in the first 6 days following surgery. The odds ratios (ORs) for POAF were compared between quintiles of preoperative RBC n-3 LC-PUFA levels by multivariable logistic regression. Results: Subjects with RBC docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the fourth quintile, comprising a RBC DHA range of 7. 0-7. 9%, had the lowest incidence of POAF. Subjects in the lowest and highest quintiles had significantly higher risk of developing POAF compared with those in the fourth quintile (OR=2. 36: 95% CI; 1. 07-5. 24 and OR=2. 45: 95% CI; 1. 16-5. 17, respectively). There was no association between RBC eicosapentaenoic acid levels and POAF incidence. Conclusions: The results suggest a 'U-shaped' relationship between RBC DHA levels and POAF incidence. The possibility of increased risk of POAF at high levels of DHA suggests an upper limit for n-3 LC-PUFAs in certain conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-118
Number of pages5
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • atrial fibrillation
  • cardiac surgery
  • docosahexaenoic acid
  • omega-3 fatty acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

Cite this

Metcalf, R. G., Skuladottir, G. V., Indridason, O. S., Sullivan, T. R., Bjorgvinsdottir, L., Sanders, P., ... James, M. J. (2014). U-shaped relationship between tissue docosahexaenoic acid and atrial fibrillation following cardiac surgery. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 68(1), 114-118. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2013.215