Background: There is currently considerable debate with regard to the optimal management of atrial fibrillation/flutter (AF), including the long-term success of electrical cardioversion and the duration of anti-coagulation thereafter. The aim of this study was to investigate the current management and outcomes of electrical cardioversion in unselected patients in ordinary clinical practice. Methods: A prospective, observational study of 111 consecutive patients with AF who had been referred for electrical cardioversion was undertaken in a large teaching hospital. After cardioversion, patients were followed-up for 12 months or until death if this occurred earlier. Results: Sinus rhythm was restored immediately in 96 of 111 (86%) patients. Only 54 of 88 (61%) patients in sinus rhythm at discharge remained in this rhythm at 1 month. Of these 54, a further 21 (39%) had relapsed into AF by 12 months. Independent predictors of sinus rhythm at discharge were younger age (for a difference of 5 years, odds ratio = 1.54; 95% confidence interval 1.04 to 1.16; P = 0.002) and absence of hypertension (1.73, 1.22-1.91; P = 0.015). The presence of sinus rhythm at discharge (6.4, 1.6-25.3; P = 0.007) was an independent predictor of sinus rhythm at 1 month, whereas older age was a negative predictor (0.96, 0.92-1.0; P = 0.05). Health-related quality of life improved at 1 and 12 months in those patients who remained in sinus rhythm compared to those who remained in AF. Conclusions: Though electrical cardioversion for AF has a high initial success rate only a minority of patients remained in sinus rhythm 1 year. The common practice of discontinuing anticoagulant treatment in patients in sinus rhythm at 1 month may be unsafe. Long-term maintenance of sinus rhythm is, however, associated with better health-related quality of life.
- Atrial fibrillation
- Quality of life