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Prehospital Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation: Infusion Pump for Bolus and Infusion?

Objective: The prehospital treatment for stable patients with atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response is rate-controlling agents such as calcium channel blockers, often diltiazem given as a bolus. At our agency we encourage the use of a bolus given via the infusion pump over two to four minutes immediately followed by maintenance infusion, given concerns of recurrent tachycardia or hypotension secondary to rapid bolus administration. We examined if administering a bolus and infusion via an infusion pump shows better heart rate (HR) control at arrival to the emergency department (ED) compared with administration of a bolus only, while maintaining hemodynamic stability during transport. We also analyzed if a patient received a second bolus within 60 minutes of arrival to the ED. Methods: We used a retrospective propensity-matched cohort of prehospital patients with atrial fibrillation for whom diltiazem was administered, from 1/1/2018 to 12/31/2021 in our system of 10 New Jersey paramedic units. We analyzed the age, gender, and initial HR and used it to match groups. We analyzed the mode and time of administration, dosage of the bolus, and presence of hypotension prehospitally. Results: The matched groups contained 145 patients who received a prehospital diltiazem bolus only (BO) and 146 patients who received a diltiazem bolus and infusion (BI). There was no significant difference between the mean change in HR from initial paramedic arrival to ED arrival between the two groups (BO 38 vs. BI 34, p = 0.16). There was no significant difference in the need for a second bolus within the first 60 minutes of arrival to the ED (BO 9.7% vs. BI 11.6%, p = 0.30). Patients in the BO group were more likely to experience prehospital hypotension then in the BI group (BO 17.2% vs BI 8.2%, p = 0.01), despite receiving smaller initial bolus doses (BO 14.2 mg vs. BI 17.4 mg, p < 0.001). Conclusion: Our results show no significant differences in HR control or need for repeat bolus at the ED with the use of a diltiazem infusion following a diltiazem bolus. However, even when administering larger boluses, the use of an infusion pump resulted in less hypotension.

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