Impact of an Emergency Department–Initiated Clinical Protocol for the Evaluation and Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation

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Published data supporting the best practice for patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) presenting to the emergency department (ED) are limited. Our objective was to evaluate the impact of an AF clinical protocol initiated in the ED with early follow-up in a specialty AF outpatient clinic.


This was a single-center prospective study of all consented patients with AF who were discharged from the ED through the AF clinical pathway and were then seen in the AF clinic. The primary endpoint was the rate of 90-day hospitalization/ED visits. Secondary endpoints included adherence to established AF anticoagulation guidelines, rate of thromboembolic events, quality of life, and patient satisfaction.


One hundred consecutive patients were enrolled in the study. Within 90 days, 15 had ED visits and 4 were hospitalized, whereas none developed thromboembolic complications. There were significant increases in the Atrial Fibrillation Effect on QualiTy of life survey quality of life (67.3 ± 24.8 vs. 89.2 ± 15.7; P < 0.001) and patient satisfaction (66.4 ± 25.3 vs. 77.9 ± 22.8; P < 0.001) scores from baseline to 90 days. Of the 29 patients with CHADS2 score ≥2, 20 (69%) were discharged from the AF clinic with oral anticoagulation.


We describe a novel approach to the care of patients with AF presenting to the ED. Usage of the ED-initiated AF clinical pathway with early follow-up in a protocol-driven AF clinic was associated with low readmission rates, no thromboembolic complications at 90 days, improved quality of life, and high patient satisfaction.

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