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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Impact of Emergency Department Management of Atrial Fibrillation on Hospital Charges


Introduction: Emergency Department (ED) cardioversion (EDCV) and discharge of patients with recent onset atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter (AF) has been shown to be a safe and effective management strategy. This study examines the impact of such aggressive ED management on hospital charges.Methods: A random sample of 300 AF patients were identified from an ED electronic data base and screened for timing of onset of their symptoms. Patients were considered eligible for EDCV if either nursing or physician notes documented an onset of symptoms less than 48 hours prior to ED presentation and the patient was less than 85 years of age. An explicit chart review was then performed to determine patient management and disposition. Cardioversion attempts were defined as ED administration of procainamide, flecainide, propafenone, ibutilide, amiodarone or direct current cardioversion (DCCV). Total hospital charges for each patient were obtained from the hospital billing office. Differences across medians were analyzed utilizing through Wilcoxon rank sum tests and chi square. Results: A total of 51 patients were included in the study. EDCV was attempted on 24 (47%) patients, 22 (92%) were successfully cardioverted to normal sinus rhythm (NSR). An additional 12 (23%) spontaneously converted to NSR. Twenty (91%) of those successfully cardioverted were discharged from the ED along with 4 (33%) of those spontaneously converting. Pharmacologic cardioverson was attempted in six patients and was successful in three (50%), one after failed DCCV attempt. Direct current cardioversion was attempted in 21 (88%) and was successful in 19 (90%), two after failed pharmacologic attempts. Median charges for patients cardioverted and discharged from the ED were $5,460 (IQR $4,677-$6,190). Median charges for admitted patients with no attempt at cardioversion were $23,202 (IQR $19,663-$46,877). Median charges for patients whose final ED rhythm was NSR were $5,641 (IQR $4,638-$12,339) while for those remaining in AF median charges were $30,299 (IQR $20,655 - $69,759).Conclusion: ED cardioversion of recent onset AF patients results in significant hospital savings. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(1):55-57.]

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