Feasibility of a cardiologist-only approach to sedation for electrical cardioversion of atrial fibrillation: a randomized, open-blinded, prospective study

Int J Cardiol. 2014 Oct 20;176(3):930-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2014.08.050. Epub 2014 Aug 17.


Background/objectives: Sedation with propofol should be administered by personnel trained in advanced airway management. To overcome this limitation, the use of short acting benzodiazepines by cardiologists spread widely, causing concerns about the safety of this procedure in the absence of anesthesiology assistance. The aim of the study was to compare feasibility of a cardiologist-only approach with an anesthesiologist-assisted sedation protocol during elective direct-current cardioversion (DCC) of persistent atrial fibrillation (AF).

Methods: This prospective, open-blinded, randomized study included 204 patients, which were admitted for scheduled cardioversion of persistent AF, and randomized in a 1:1 fashion to either propofol or midazolam treatment arm. Patients in the propofol group underwent DCC with anesthesiologist assistance, while patients in the midazolam group saw the cardiologist as the only responsible for both sedation and DCC.

Results: Twenty-three adverse events occurred: 13 in the propofol group and 10 in the midazolam group (p=NS). Most of them were related to bradyarrhythmias and respiratory depressions. There was no need of intubation or other advanced resuscitation techniques in any of these patients. No differences were found regarding procedure tolerability and safety endpoints between the two groups. DCC procedures with anesthesiology support were burdened by higher delay from scheduled time and higher costs.

Conclusions: Sedation with midazolam administered by cardiologist-only appears to be as safe as sedation with propofol and anesthesiologist assistance. Adverse events were few in both groups and easily handled by the cardiologist alone. A cardiologist-only approach to sedation provides less procedural delay, thus being easier to schedule and correlated with fewer costs.

Keywords: Atrial fibrillation; Electrical cardioversion; Midazolam; Procedural sedation–analgesia; Propofol.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anesthesiology
  • Atrial Fibrillation / therapy*
  • Cardiology
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Conscious Sedation / economics
  • Conscious Sedation / methods*
  • Direct Service Costs
  • Electric Countershock / economics
  • Electric Countershock / methods*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / administration & dosage*
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / economics
  • Male
  • Midazolam / administration & dosage*
  • Midazolam / economics
  • Middle Aged
  • Propofol / administration & dosage*
  • Propofol / economics
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Midazolam
  • Propofol