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Ital Heart J. 2000 Jul;1(7):475-9.

Intravenous versus oral initial load of propafenone for conversion of recent-onset atrial fibrillation in the emergency room: a randomized trial.

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Department of Emergency, V. Cervello Hospital, Palermo, Italy.



Non-valvular paroxysmal atrial fibrillation is a common clinical condition associated with a high risk of thromboembolism and hemodynamic problems which increase with the duration of arrhythmia. Therefore, even if arrhythmia ceases spontaneously within 24 hours in about half of the patients, a higher early conversion rate is desirable. Propafenone either by intravenous or oral load has been shown effective in conversion to sinus rhythm.


We consecutively randomized all emergency patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation lasting no more than 48 hours to either intravenous or oral initial load of propafenone. They all received further oral doses if still on atrial fibrillation after the initial load. Exclusion criteria were: mean ventricular rate < 65 b/min, age > 75 years, recent acute myocardial infarction, overt heart failure, conduction defects, ventricular preexcitation, thyroid dysfunction, renal or hepatic insufficiency, pregnancy, current treatment with propafenone or other antiarrhythmic drugs, and intolerance to propafenone. Primary and secondary end-points were the conversion to sinus rhythm within 12 and 48 hours of randomization respectively.


Ninety-seven patients were randomized to intravenous (n = 49) or oral (n = 48) treatment. Overall, sinus rhythm restoration occurred in 83.3% of patients within 12 hours and in 98.9% at 24 hours. Recovery rate resulted significantly greater for intravenous treatment at 1 and 3 hours (p < 0.001 and p = 0.001, respectively). At 6, 12 and 24 hours no significant difference between the two groups was observed (p = 0.77, p = 0.81 and p = 0.99, respectively). No patient needed treatment suspension.


In patients with recent-onset non-valvular atrial fibrillation treated with propafenone within 48 hours, conversion to sinus rhythm occurred in more than 80% within 12 hours. Even if intravenous initial load appears to be slightly more rapid, the oral way is easier to administer and cheaper. The choice may depend on the specific organization of the single emergency room.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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