BACKGROUND: In patients undergoing transesophageal echocardiography-guided cardioversion, we evaluated the use and safety of an expedited in-hospital anticoagulation regimen that incorporates shorter-than-standard durations of precardioversion intravenous unfractionated heparin and postcardioversion bridging therapy with a low-molecular-weight heparin. METHODS: Adult patients who underwent successful transesophageal echocardiography-guided cardioversion for atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter between May 2000 and August 2003 were classified into 2 groups by duration of intravenous unfractionated heparin therapy (<24 h or ≥24 h) before transesophageal echocardiography and cardioversion. Safety end points evaluated included all-cause death, stroke or other thromboembolic events, and major bleeding complications within 1 month after successful cardioversion. RESULTS: The study population of 386 patients included 199 (52%) who received expedited intravenous unfractionated heparin (<24 h; minimum duration, <4 h) and 193 patients (50%) who were discharged on low-molecular-weight heparin therapy. The adverse event rates at 1-month follow-up were not significantly different between the 2 unfractionated heparin patient groups, and the rate of stroke among patients dismissed on low-molecular-weight heparin was less than 1%. No adverse events occurred among patients who received intravenous unfractionated heparin for less than 12 hours and who were dismissed on low-molecular-weight heparin bridging therapy. CONCLUSIONS: The use of an expedited heparin anticoagulation regimen in patients with atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter undergoing transesophageal echocardiography-guided cardioversion appears to be safe. Cardioversion can be performed as early as a few hours after initiation of intravenous unfractionated heparin, and bridging therapy with a low-molecular-weight heparin can be used after cardioversion until the international normalized ratio is therapeutic.
- Low-molecular-weight heparin
- Transesophageal echocardiography
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