Management of atrial fibrillation (AF) in the emergency department (ED) is variable because of the absence of universally adopted treatment guidelines. To address potentially preventable hospital admissions and prolonged length of stay, an AF treatment pathway was co-developed by physicians from the cardiac electrophysiology service and the department of emergency medicine at our institution. The impact of this AF pathway on patient outcomes was evaluated with a prospective, observational study conducted in a single tertiary care center from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014. The primary study outcome was the rate of hospital admission. The secondary outcomes were duration of ED visit and inpatient length of stay. The 94 patients treated according to the AF pathway during the study period were less likely to be admitted than the 265 patients who received routine care (16% vs 80%, p <0.001). For admitted patients, the mean length of stay was shorter for patients treated according to the AF pathway (32 vs 85 hours, p = 0.002). The time spent in the ED was longer for patients in the AF pathway (16 vs 85 hours, p <0.001). Utilization of a multidisciplinary pathway for management of AF in the ED led to a significant reduction in the rate of hospital admission. Patients who were admitted after receiving care according to the AF pathway had a shorter length of stay. In conclusion, utilization of a multidisciplinary AF pathway resulted in a 5-fold reduction in admission rate and >2-fold reduction length of stay for admitted patients.
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