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Likelihood of Spontaneous Cardioversion of Atrial Fibrillation Using a Conservative Management Strategy Among Patients Presenting to the Emergency Department

      Numerous emergency department (ED) atrial fibrillation (AF) protocols have been developed to reduce hospitalizations, focusing on the use of cardioversion in the ED. An alternative strategy of rate control with early specialty follow-up may be more widely applicable. The likelihood of spontaneous cardioversion with such a protocol is unknown. Between 2015 and 2018, 157 patients who presented to the ED with a primary diagnosis of AF and were hemodynamically stable and with low to moderate symptom severity were discharged with early follow-up at an AF specialty clinic. Rhythm at short-term (within 72 hours), within 30-day follow-up, and need for electrical cardioversion was tabulated. Various demographic and co-morbidity variables were assessed to determine their association with likelihood of spontaneous cardioversion. At an average of 2.3 days, 63% and within 30 days, 83% had spontaneous cardioversion. By 90 days, only 6.3% required electrical cardioversion. Diabetes (38% vs 69%, p <0.01), coronary artery disease (39% vs 66%, p = 0.02), reduced ejection fraction (40% vs 72%, p <0.01), dilated right atrium (43% vs 73%, p <0.01) and moderate-to-severely dilated left atrium (38% vs 78%, p <0.01) predicted those who were less likely to convert to sinus rhythm. Most patients who present to the ED with AF will spontaneously convert to sinus rhythm by short-term (2 to 3 days) follow-up with a rate control strategy. In conclusion, aggressive use of electrical cardioversion in the ED may be unnecessary in hemodynamically stable patients without severe symptoms.
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