Outcomes for Emergency Department Patients With Recent-Onset Atrial Fibrillation and Flutter Treated in Canadian Hospitals

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Abstract

Study objective

Recent-onset atrial fibrillation and flutter are the most common arrhythmias managed in the emergency department (ED). We evaluate the management and 30-day outcomes for recent-onset atrial fibrillation and flutter patients in Canadian EDs, where cardioversion is commonly practiced.

Methods

We conducted a prospective cohort study in 6 academic hospital EDs and enrolled patients who had atrial fibrillation and flutter onset within 48 hours. Patients were followed for 30 days by health records review and telephone. Adverse events included death, stroke, acute coronary syndrome, heart failure, subsequent admission, or ED electrocardioversion.

Results

We enrolled 1,091 patients with mean age 63.9 years, atrial fibrillation 84.7%, atrial flutter 15.3%, hospital admission 9.0%, and converted to sinus rhythm 80.1%. Although 10.5% of recent-onset atrial fibrillation and flutter patients had adverse events within 30 days, there were no related deaths and 1 stroke (0.1%). Adjusted odds ratios for factors associated with adverse event were hours from onset (1.03/hour; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.01 to 1.05), history of stroke or transient ischemic attack (2.09; 95% CI 1.01 to 4.36), and pulmonary congestion on chest radiograph (7.37; 95% CI 2.40 to 22.64). Patients who left the ED in sinus rhythm were much less likely to experience an adverse event (P<.001).

Conclusion

Although most recent-onset atrial fibrillation and flutter patients were treated aggressively in the ED, there were few 30-day serious outcomes. Physicians underprescribed oral anticoagulants. Potential risk factors for adverse events include longer duration from arrhythmia onset, previous stroke or transient ischemic attack, pulmonary congestion on chest radiograph, and not being in sinus rhythm at discharge. An ED strategy of sinus rhythm restoration and discharge in most patients is effective and safe.

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