In a prospective, single-blind trial, we randomized 150 consecutive symptomatic patients with acute (< or = 48 hours' duration) atrial fibrillation to receive intravenous flecainide, propafenone, or amiodarone. Flecainide and propafenone were administered as a bolus dose of 2 mg/kg in 20 minutes. A second bolus dose of 1 mg/kg in 20 minutes was administered if conversion to sinus rhythm was not achieved after 8 hours. Amiodarone was administered as a bolus of 5 mg/kg in 20 minutes followed by a continuous infusion of 50 mg/hour. By the end of a 12-hour observation period, conversion to sinus rhythm was achieved in 45 patients (90%) in the flecainide group, 36 (72%) in the propafenone group, and 32 (64%) in the amiodarone group (p = 0.008 for the overall comparison, p = 0.002 for flecainide vs amiodarone, p = 0.022 for flecainide vs propafenone, and p = 0.39 for propafenone vs amiodarone). When compared with amiodarone, this higher reversion rate with flecainide was present from the first hour of the study period. However, only after administering the second bolus was there a significant difference between flecainide and propafenone. Median time to conversion to sinus rhythm was different among groups (p < 0.001), and it was lower in the flecainide (25 minutes; range 4 to 660) and propafenone (30 minutes; range 10 to 660) groups than in the amiodarone group (333 minutes; range 15 to 710; p < 0.001 for both comparisons). Flecainide, at the doses administered in this study, is more effective than propafenone and amiodarone for conversion of acute atrial fibrillation to sinus rhythm. Propafenone and amiodarone have similar conversion rates, although propafenone was faster in achieving the conversion to sinus rhythm.