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Acad Emerg Med. 2007 Dec;14(12):1158-64.

Emergency department use of intravenous procainamide for patients with acute atrial fibrillation or flutter.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.



Acute atrial fibrillation and flutter are very common arrhythmias seen in emergency department (ED) patients, but there is no consensus for their optimal management. The objective of this study was to examine the efficacy and safety of intravenous (IV) procainamide for acute atrial fibrillation or flutter.


This health records review included a consecutive cohort of ED patients with acute-onset atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter who received IV procainamide at one university hospital ED during a five-year period. The standard clinical protocol involved IV infusion of 1 g of procainamide over 60 minutes, followed by electrical cardioversion if necessary. A trained observer extracted data from the original clinical records. Outcome measurements included conversion to sinus rhythm, adverse events, and relapse up to seven days.


The 341 study patients had a mean age of 63.9 years (SD +/- 15.5 years), and 56.6% were male. The conversion rates were 52.2% (95% confidence interval = 47% to 58%) for 316 atrial fibrillation cases and 28.0% (95% confidence interval = 13% to 46%) for 25 atrial flutter cases. Mean dose given was 860.7 mg (SD +/- 231.2 mg), and median time to conversion was 55 minutes. Adverse events occurred in 34 cases (10.0%): hypotension, 8.5%; bradycardia, 0.6%; atrioventricular block, 0.6%; and ventricular tachycardia, 0.3%. There were no cases of torsades de pointes, cerebrovascular accident, or death. Most patients (94.4%) were discharged home, but 2.9% of patients returned with a recurrence of atrial fibrillation within seven days.


This study of acute atrial fibrillation or flutter patients treated in the ED with IV procainamide suggests that this treatment is safe and effective in this setting. Procainamide should be prospectively compared with other ED strategies.

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