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Age Ageing. 1999 Jan;28(1):73-5.

Cardioversion for atrial fibrillation: the views of consultant physicians, geriatricians and cardiologists.

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  • 1Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, UK.



Atrial fibrillation (AF) increases the risk of stroke and also has adverse haemodynamic consequences. Cardioversion of AF to sinus rhythm may obviate the need for long-term anticoagulation and improve cardiovascular haemodynamics, but is probably underused. We therefore investigated the views of hospital consultants about cardioversion for AF.


336 Postal questionnaires were sent to all 186 consultant physicians, 54 cardiologists and 96 geriatricians in Scotland, followed by one reminder letter to non-responders.


71% Of questionnaires were returned. Cardiologists referred 18% of AF patients for cardioversion, while physicians referred 11% and geriatricians 5%. Cardiologists had better access to cardioversion facilities and were less likely to consider an enlarged left atrium and organic heart disease to be contra-indications to cardioversion. Anticoagulation was given for less than 3 weeks before cardioversion by 9% of cardiologists, 39% of physicians and 65% of geriatricians (P<0.001), and for less than 3 weeks after cardioversion by 17% of cardiologists, 45% of physicians and 47% of geriatricians (P = 0.7).


The wide variation in practice both between and within the different specialties suggests that consensus guidelines based on the best available evidence should be developed.

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