Role of transesophageal echocardiography-guided cardioversion of patients with atrial fibrillation

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2001 Mar 1;37(3):691-704. doi: 10.1016/s0735-1097(00)01178-5.


Electrical cardioversion of patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) is frequently performed to relieve symptoms and improve cardiac performance. Patients undergoing cardioversion are treated conventionally with therapeutic anticoagulation for three weeks before and four weeks after cardioversion to decrease the risk of thromboembolism. A transesophageal echocardiography (TEE)-guided strategy has been proposed as an alternative that may lower stroke and bleeding events. Patients without atrial cavity thrombus or atrial appendage thrombus by TEE are cardioverted on achievement of therapeutic anticoagulation, whereas cardioversion is delayed in higher risk patients with thrombus. The aim of this review is to discuss the issues and controversies associated with the management of patients with AF undergoing cardioversion. We provide an overview of the TEE-guided and conventional anticoagulation strategies in light of the recently completed Assessment of Cardioversion Using Transesophageal Echocardiography (ACUTE) clinical trial. The two management strategies comparably lower the patient's embolic risk when the guidelines are properly followed. The TEE-guided strategy with shorter term anticoagulation may lower the incidence of bleeding complications and safely expedite early cardioversion. The inherent advantages and disadvantages of both strategies are presented. The TEE-guided approach with short-term anticoagulation is considered to be a safe and clinically effective alternative to the conventional approach, and it is advocated in patients in whom earlier cardioversion would be clinically beneficial.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Atrial Fibrillation / therapy*
  • Coronary Thrombosis / complications
  • Coronary Thrombosis / prevention & control
  • Echocardiography, Transesophageal*
  • Electric Countershock*
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Stroke / physiopathology
  • Stroke / prevention & control
  • Surgery, Computer-Assisted
  • Therapy, Computer-Assisted*


  • Anticoagulants