Background: The management of emergency department (ED) patients with presumed recent-onset atrial fibrillation or flutter≤48h in duration varies widely.
Objective and method: We conducted a prospective study across three affiliated community EDs within a large integrated health care delivery system to describe the management of patients with recent-onset atrial fibrillation or flutter, to determine the safety and effectiveness of ED cardioversion, and to measure the incidence of thromboembolism 30 days after discharge.
Results: We enrolled 206 patients with convenience sampling between June 2005 and November 2007. Mean age was 64.0±14.4 years (range 21-96 years). Patients were grouped for analysis into four categories based on whether cardioversion was 1) spontaneous in the ED (59; 28.6%); 2) attempted with electrical or pharmacological means (115; 56.3%), with success in 110 (95.7%); 3) hoped for during a short stint of home observation (16; 7.8%, 11 of which spontaneously converted to sinus rhythm within 24h); or 4) contraindicated (16; 7.8%). Of the entire group, 183 (88.8%) patients were discharged home. Adverse events requiring ED interventions were reported in 6 (2.9%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1-6.2%) patients, all of whom recovered. Two (1.0%; 95% CI 0.1-3.5%) patients were found to have an embolic event on 30-day follow-up.
Conclusions: Our approach to ED patients with presumed recent-onset atrial fibrillation or flutter seems to be safe and effective, with a high rate of cardioversion and discharge to home coupled with a low ED adverse event and 30-day thromboembolic event rate.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.