Rapid discharge in AF

The Ottawa Aggressive Protocol is used to treat recent onset (< 48 hours) atrial fibrillation or flutter with procainamide and/or cardioversion to allow discharge from the emergency department.
A cohort of 660 patient visits is described in a paper in the Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine, 95.2% involving atrial fibrillation and 4.9% involving atrial flutter. The mean age of patients enrolled was 64.5 years. In total, 96.8% were discharged home and, of those, 93.3% were in sinus rhythm. All patients were initially administered intravenous procainamide, with a 58.3% conversion rate. A total of 243 patients underwent subsequent electrical cardioversion with a 91.7% success rate. Adverse events occurred in 7.6% of cases: hypotension 6.7%, bradycardia 0.3% and 7-day relapse 8.6%. There were no cases of torsades de pointes, stroke or death. The median lengths of stay in the ED were as follows: 4.9 hours overall, 3.9 hours for those undergoing conversion with procainamide and 6.5 hours for those requiring electrical conversion.

This proactive approach by emergency physicians seems excellent for patients who in some centres probably still get admitted for this presentation. I’m not sure why they continue to use a drug with a conversion percentage in the 50’s, which the authors have demonstrated before. Many of us routinely use flecainide for recent onset AF in patients likely to have structurally normal hearts, as it has been shown to be superior to procainamide in AF.

Association of the Ottawa Aggressive Protocol with rapid discharge of emergency department patients with recent-onset atrial fibrillation or flutter
Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine 12.3 (May 2010): p181(11)