Early cardioversion of atrial fibrillation facilitated by transesophageal echocardiography: short-term safety and impact on maintenance of sinus rhythm at 1 year.
BACKGROUND: For patients presenting with atrial fibrillation of only a few weeks duration, the use of transesophageal echocardiography offers the opportunity to markedly abbreviate the duration of atrial fibrillation before cardioversion. We sought to determine if the shorter duration of atrial fibrillation allowed by a transesophageal echocardiography strategy had an impact on the recurrence of atrial fibrillation and prevalence of sinus rhythm during the first year following cardioversion. METHODS: Transesophageal echocardiography was attempted in 539 patients (292 men, 247 women; 71.6 +/- 13.0 years.) with atrial fibrillation > or =2 days (66.1% <3 weeks) or of unknown duration before elective cardioversion of atrial fibrillation. Therapeutic anticoagulation at the time of transesophageal echocardiography was present in 94.6% of patients, and 73.4% of subjects were discharged on warfarin. RESULTS: Atrial thrombi were identified in 70 (13.1%) patients. Successful cardioversion in 413 patients without evidence of atrial thrombi was associated with clinical thromboembolism in 1 patient (0.24%, 95% confidence interval: 0.0--0.8%). In patients with atrial fibrillation <3 weeks at the time of cardioversion (a duration incompatible with conventional therapy of 3 to 4 weeks of warfarin before cardioversion), the 1-year atrial fibrillation recurrence rate was lower (41.1% vs. 57.9%, P <0.01), and the prevalence of sinus rhythm at 1 year was increased (65.8% vs. 51.3%, P <0.03). No other clinical or echocardiographic index was associated with recurrence of atrial fibrillation or sinus rhythm at 1 year. CONCLUSIONS: Early cardioversion facilitated by transesophageal echocardiography has a favorable safety profile and provides the associated benefit of reduced recurrence of atrial fibrillation for patients in whom the duration of atrial fibrillation is <3 weeks.
Weigner, MJ; Thomas, LR; Patel, U; Schwartz, JG; Burger, AJ; Douglas, PS; Silverman, DI; Manning, WJ
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