Electrical cardioversion of emergency department patients with atrial fibrillation

John H Burton, David R Vinson, Kate Drummond, Tania D Strout, Henry C Thode, Jeff J McInturff
Annals of Emergency Medicine 2004, 44 (1): 20-30

STUDY OBJECTIVE: Electrical cardioversion of emergency department (ED) patients with atrial fibrillation has not been well investigated. The objective of this study is to identify the outcomes and complications associated with ED electrical cardioversion of patients with atrial fibrillation.

METHODS: This retrospective health records survey investigated a consecutive cohort of ED patients with atrial fibrillation who underwent electrical cardioversion in 4 EDs during a 42-month period. Trained personnel reviewed medical records for demographic characteristics, clinical descriptors, medical interventions, complications, and ED return visits within 7 days. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics.

RESULTS: The study population consisted of 388 patients (mean age 61 years; range 20 to 93 years). Duration of atrial fibrillation was less than 48 hours in 99% of the cohort. Electrical cardioversion was successful in 332 (86%) patients. Twenty-eight complications were noted in 25 electrical cardioversion encounters: 22 attributed to procedural sedation and analgesia and 6 attributed to electrical cardioversion. Three hundred thirty-three (86%) patients were discharged to home from the ED: 301 after electrical cardioversion success and 32 with electrical cardioversion failure. Thirty-nine patients (10%) returned to the ED within 7 days, 25 of these patients (6% of successful electrical cardioversion patients) returned because of relapse of atrial fibrillation.

CONCLUSION: In this multicenter cohort, selected ED patients with atrial fibrillation had high rates of electrical cardioversion success, infrequent hospital admission, and few immediate and short-term complications.

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