Evidence-Based Medicine| Volume 45, ISSUE 1, P117-127, July 2013

Is Emergency Department Cardioversion of Recent-onset Atrial Fibrillation Safe and Effective?



      Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a very common dysrhythmia presenting to Emergency Departments (EDs). Controversy exists regarding the optimal clinical therapy for these patients, which typically focuses on rhythm rate-control and admission or cardioversion and discharge home.

      Clinical Question

      Is ED cardioversion of recent-onset atrial fibrillation safe, effective, and does it result in positive meaningful patient outcomes?

      Evidence Review

      Five observation studies with nearly 1600 ED patients with atrial fibrillation treated with either rate-control or cardioversion were reviewed and results compiled.


      Overall, ED cardioversion for recent-onset AF seems safe and effective, with success rates ranging from 85.5% to 97% in these studies. Although further research should seek to identify patients at low risk for thromboembolic complication, more rigorously assess patient satisfaction, and show cost savings, emergency physicians should feel comfortable using this approach in select patients.


      ED cardioversion for recent-onset AF seems safe and effective.


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