Electrical cardioversion - where electrical shocks are used to restore normal heart rhythm after atrial fibrillation (AF) or heart flutter - may work in the short term. But new evidence suggests that a substantial number of patients may relapse over the longer term.
Researchers at Glasgow's Western Infirmary examined the current management and outcomes of electrical cardioversion in 111 consecutive patients with AF.
Of these, 96 (86 per cent) achieved immediate return to normal heart rhythm and 88 (79 per cent) remained 'normal' at discharge. But of those 88 patients, 34 (39 per cent) had relapsed into AF after one month and a further 21 (24 per cent) after one year.
The risk factors for relapse are not clear, but older patients were more likely to relapse than younger ones and, note the researchers, there may be a case for not discontinuing anticoagulation therapy too quickly after electrical cardioversion in this group of patients (Int J Cardiol, 2001; 81: 29-35).