Transesophageal Cardioversion and Defibrillation

Evaluation of transesophageal echocardiography before cardioversion of atrial fibrillation and flutter in nonanticoagulated patients.

Black IW, Hopkins AP, Lee LC, Walsh WF. Prince Henry Hospital, Sydney. Am Heart J 1993 Aug;126(2):375-81. This study prospectively evaluated the role of transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) in screening for atrial thrombi before electrical cardioversion in 40 nonanticoagulated patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation (n = 33) or atrial flutter (n = 7). Transthoracic echocardiography did not detect atrial thrombus in any patient. TEE detected left atrial appendage thrombi in five patients (12%, p = 0.03), significantly associated with left ventricular systolic dysfunction (p = 0.02) and left atrial spontaneous echo contrast (p = 0.04). Cardioversion was cancelled in the five patients with thrombi and in two patients with spontaneous reversion before planned cardioversion. Cardioversion was successful in 25 (76%) of the 33 remaining patients. Cerebral embolism occurred 24 hours after successful cardioversion in one patient with atrial fibrillation and left ventricular dysfunction, who had left atrial spontaneous echo contrast, but no thrombus was detected by TEE before cardioversion. Repeat TEE after embolism showed a fresh left atrial appendage thrombus and increased left atrial spontaneous echo contrast. These results indicate that TEE improves the detection of left atrial appendage thrombi in candidates for cardioversion, in whom the procedure may be deferred. However, the exclusion by TEE of preexisting atrial thrombi before cardioversion does not eliminate the risk of embolism after cardioversion because of persistent atrial stasis and de novo thrombosis.

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