Transesophageal Cardioversion and Defibrillation

Thromboembolism following cardioversion of “common” atrial flutter. Risk factors and limitations of transesophageal echocardiography.

Mehta D, Baruch L. Mount Sinai Hospital, NY. Chest 1996 Oct;110(4):1001-3. Based on multiple recent studies, anticoagulant therapy is recommended prior to elective cardioversion for patients with atrial fibrillation of more than 24 h duration. The value of anticoagulation in patients with atrial flutter, however, is less well established. Published recommendations for pericardioversion anticoagulation of atrial fibrillation often do not extend to patients with atrial flutter. We evaluated the risk of thromboembolism in our patient population undergoing cardioversion for atrial flutter. Over a period of 30 months, clinically indicated electrical cardioversions were performed in 41 patients with "common" atrial flutter. Sixteen of these patients underwent transesophageal echocardiograms immediately prior to cardioversion to exclude a left atrial thrombus. Three of the 41 patients with atrial flutter developed neurologic ischemic syndromes within 48 h of elective cardioversion. All three patients who developed ischemic neurologic complications had undergone transesophageal echocardiography immediately prior to cardioversion and did not have any evidence of left atrial clot. One patient had cardiomyopathy and the other two had left ventricular hypertrophy. Thus, electrical cardioversion without anticoagulation in patients with atrial flutter and associated heart disease is associated with a risk of thromboembolic events. A normal transesophageal echocardiogram is of doubtful value in prevention of thromboembolic complications.

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