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Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common arrhythmia presentation to the emergency department (ED) and frequently results in admission to the hospital. Although rarely life-threatening and not usually an emergent condition, AF places a large burden on our health-care system. The objective of this study was to describe the practices of ED physicians in the management of AF in a large urban Canadian city.
From January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010, patients with a primary diagnosis of AF were identified across 10 EDs in Toronto, Canada (N=2,609). Fifty patients were selected at random from each hospital for a detailed chart review (n=500).
Two hundred thirty-two patients (46%) received rate control, and 129 (26%) received rhythm control with the remainder (28%) receiving neither therapy. Sixty-seven percent of patients were discharged home. Most patients (79%) were symptomatic on arrival; however, only a minority of these (31%) received rhythm control. Factors that were associated with rhythm control included younger age, duration of palpitations ≤ 48 hours, a lower CHADS2 score, and the absence of left ventricular dysfunction.
Our data suggest a wide range of practice amongst ED physicians treating patients presenting to the ED with a primary diagnosis of AF. A randomized trial is needed to better understand the optimal management strategy in this patient population and setting.
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