Managing atrial fibrillation in the Accident and Emergency Department

E Williams, Mohammed Ansari, Gregory Lip

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


We surveyed Accident and Emergency (A&E) consultants in England by questionnaire, on their management of patients presenting with AF. Completed questionnaires were received from 124 (45%). Most (42%) would use digoxin as first-line treatment for rate control of AF; 28% would not treat AF acutely but would refer the patient to the medical team; 59% would cardiovert a patient with AF in A&E, if there was evidence of cardiovascular compromise. Some 51 % would not routinely initiate any anticoagulation therapy. Faced with a patient in fast AF who was haemodynamically unstable, 67% would immediately opt for electrical cardioversion, 13% would refer the patient directly to the medics and 15% would initially treat with intravenous digoxin. Given a patient in fast AF and cardiac failure, 55% would treat with digoxin. Asked about AF related to Wolff- Parkinson-White syndrome, 37% would initially give adenosine, 23% would opt for immediate DC cardioversion and 25% would refer directly to the medics; however, a minority would still give a rate-limiting calcium antagonist or digoxin. The majority (79%) would not treat AF in a known alcoholic with acute intoxication who was haemodynamically stable. Consultants were more likely to initiate treatment if the patient had signs of shock or heart failure. Where there were underlying medical problems they were more likely to refer the patient directly to the medical team. There was a general reluctance to initiate anticoagulation, and some difference in opinion over how long AF should have persisted for anticoagulation to be necessary in the context of electrical cardioversion. Given the current evolution of A&E as an acute speciality, A&E clinicians should at least initiate management of patients with AF and be prepared to care for them for some time in A&E.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-614
Number of pages6
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2001


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