A2 Review article in a scientific journal
Cardioversion for atrial fibrillation – how to prevent thromboembolic complications?

List of Authors: Samuli Jaakkola, Tuomas O. Kiviniemi, K. E. Juhani Airaksinen
Publisher: Taylor and Francis Ltd
Publication year: 2018
Journal: Annals of Medicine
Journal name in source: Annals of Medicine
Volume number: 50
Issue number: 7
eISSN: 1365-2060


Cardioversion is an essential component of rhythm control strategy for atrial fibrillation. The thromboembolic risk of cardioversion is well established and the mechanisms behind the phenomenon have been comprehensively described. There are several clinical aspects that are important to take into consideration when assessing the safety of cardioversion. Before proceeding to cardioversion, the probability of early treatment failure and antiarrhythmic treatment options to prevent recurrences should be carefully evaluated to avoid the risks of repeated futile cardioversions. Effective periprocedural anticoagulation is the mainstay in thromboembolic complication prevention and the first week after rhythm conversion is the most vulnerable period in this respect. Early timing of cardioversion appears to be another important measure to decrease the risk of thromboembolic complications. Transoesophageal echocardiography is useful in clinical scenarios where early cardioversion is desirable due to debilitating clinical symptoms and a short duration of arrhythmia or the adequacy of preceding anticoagulation is uncertain. However, it does not lessen the need for effective anticoagulation after cardioversion. This review summarizes the recent scientific discoveries to improve the safety of cardioversion for atrial fibrillation.

Key messages

  • Cardioversion for atrial fibrillation entails a significant risk of thromboembolic complications, especially during the first week after the procedure.

  • The intensity of periprocedural anticoagulation and the timing of cardioversion appear to be significant determinants of the risk of thromboembolism.

  • Awareness of the clinical aspects influencing cardioversion safety should be raised.

  • Last updated on 2019-21-08 at 20:13