Send to

Choose Destination
J Am Coll Cardiol. 1992 Mar 15;19(4):851-5.

Role of prophylactic anticoagulation for direct current cardioversion in patients with atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter.

Author information

Department of Cardiology, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Ohio 44195.


The need for prophylactic anticoagulation to prevent embolism before direct current cardioversion is performed for atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter is controversial. To examine this issue further, a retrospective review was undertaken to assess the incidence of embolic complications after cardioversion. The review involved 454 elective direct current cardioversions performed for atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter over a 7 year period. The incidence rate of embolic complications was 1.32% (six patients); the complications ranged from minor visual disturbances to a fatal cerebrovascular event. All six patients had atrial fibrillation, and none had been on anticoagulant therapy (p = 0.026). The duration of atrial fibrillation was less than 1 week in five of the six patients who had embolic complications. Baseline characteristics of patients with a postcardioversion embolic event are compared with those of patients who did not have an embolic event. There was no difference in the prevalence of hypertension, diabetes mellitus or prior stroke between the two groups, and there was no difference in the number of patients who were postoperative or had poor left ventricular function. Left atrial size was similar between the two groups. No patient in the embolic group had valvular disease. No patient with atrial flutter had an embolic event regardless of anticoagulant status; therefore, anticoagulation is not recommended for patients with atrial flutter undergoing cardioversion. Prophylactic anticoagulation is pivotal in patients undergoing elective direct current cardioversion for atrial fibrillation, even those with atrial fibrillation of less than 1 week's duration.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center