UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Cardiology

Title: atrial fibrillation and early cardioversion

Keywords: cardioversion, atrial fibrillation (PubMed Search)

Posted: 8/15/2010 by Amal Mattu, MD (Updated: 5/28/2023)
Click here to contact Amal Mattu, MD

Increasing literature is supportive of the idea of electrically cardioverting new-onset atrial fibrillation (onset < 48 hours). The traditional concerns are that (1) cardioversion doesn't work well with atrial fibrillation and that (2) you will induce an embolic event. The literature actually indicates that both of these concerns are not true. The success rate of electrically cardioverting new-onset atrial fibrillation is actually >90% and the risk of embolism is < 1% (Burton, Ann Emerg Med). Many EDs already utilize such protocols that recommend routine cardioversion for these patients and discharge after a brief observation period.

In coming years, fueled by issues pertaining to hospital overcrowding and cost containment, we'll all be seeing more and more papers and guidelines recommending early electrical cardioversion, so if you aren't comfortable with the will be!