Management strategies for the acute treatment of atrial fibrillation (AF) include: (1) the use of intravenous drugs for rate control, (2) drug termination, or (3) direct current (DC) cardioversion. Delays in cardioversion can promote atrial remodeling and add thromboembolic risk. Rate control awaiting spontaneous or pharmacologic conversion may be a cost-effective strategy in patients presenting with recent onset of symptoms. Early DC cardioversion can be cost-effective and minimize antiembolic therapy issues in the acute setting. In patients presenting with AF of unknown or >48 hours' duration, rate control and therapeutic warfarin for 3-4 weeks followed by medical or DC cardioversion is standard practice. However, delays in conversion promote atrial remodeling that makes restoration of sinus rhythm more difficult and increases the likelihood of postcardioversion AF recurrence. Transesophageal echocardiography can identify patients at low risk for a cardioversion-related embolic event and allows cardioversion to be performed earlier, thereby minimizing atrial remodeling.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine