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How well do ED physician practices align with the CAEP acute atrial fibrillation checklist for stroke prevention and disposition?

CJEM 2024 March 27
OBJECTIVES: Acute atrial fibrillation (AF)/flutter (AFL) is a common emergency department (ED) presentation. In 2021, an updated version of CAEP's Acute AF/AFL Best Practices Checklist was published, seeking to guide management. We assessed the alignment with and safety of application of the Checklist, regarding stroke prevention and disposition.

METHODS: This health records review included adults presenting to two tertiary care academic EDs between January and August 2022 with a diagnosis of acute AF/AFL. Patients were excluded if their initial heart rate was < 100 or if they were hospitalized. Data extracted included: demographics, CHADS-65 score, clinical characteristics, ED treatment and disposition, and outpatient prescriptions and referrals. Our primary outcome was the proportion of patient encounters with one or more identified safety issues. Each case was assessed according to seven predetermined criteria from elements of the CAEP Checklist and either deemed "safe" or to contain one or more safety issues. We used descriptive statistics with 95% confidence intervals.

RESULTS: 358 patients met inclusion criteria. The mean age was 66.9 years, 59.2% were male and 77.4% patients had at least one of the CHADS-65 criteria. 169 (47.2%) were not already on anticoagulation and 99 (27.6%) were discharged home with a new prescription for anticoagulation. The primary outcome was identified in 6.4% (95% CI 4.3-9.5) of encounters, representing 28 safety issues in 23 individuals. The safety concerns included: failure to prescribe anticoagulation when indicated (n = 6), inappropriate dosing of a direct oral anticoagulant (DOAC) (n = 2), inappropriate prescription of rate or rhythm control medication (n = 9), and failure to recommend appropriately timed follow-up for new rate control medication (n = 11).

CONCLUSIONS: There was a very high level of ED physician alignment with CAEP's Best Practices Checklist regarding disposition and stroke prevention. There are opportunities to further improve care with respect to recommendation of anticoagulation and reducing inappropriate prescriptions of rate or rhythm medications.

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