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A Journal on Heart and Vascular Diseases

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Angiology and Vascular Pathology
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Minerva Cardioangiologica 2004 April;52(2):73-80

language: English, Italian

Oesophageal electrical cardioversion of atrial fibrillation

Santini L., Forleo G. B., Santini M., Romeo F.


Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia and the most frequent cause of hospitalization and utilization expense among all heart diseases. Taking into account persistent atrial fibrillation we know that, in order to cardiovert persistent atrial fibrillation, external direct current cardioversion is the method most frequently used to restore sinus rhythm. But external cardioversion has also some limitations: it requires high energy direct current shocks so that patients have to be anaesthetised, which means a dedicated apparatus and place to adequately assist the patients. The oesopha-geal cardioversion is an alternative method to restore sinus rhythm, which could obviate some of these limitations of external cardioversion. Compared to external cardioversion oesophageal one has lower defibrillation impedance and requires lower energies to restore sinus rhythm, increasing for the same energy level, success rate. Using low energy shocks, a mild sedation is sufficient to make the procedure well tolerated by most of pa-tients. Other 2 important advantages coming from low energy shocks are the safety in patients with pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator and the availability of a back up atrial pacing. Oesophageal cardioversion is not indeed a new technique. Looking at literature, studies in animals and in humans have been performed since the 60s, assessing feasibility, effectiveness and safety of such a procedure. The oesophageal-precordial cardioversion is usually performed on an outpatient regimen, resulting in a very cost-effective method to cardiovert patients with persistent atrial fibrillation, which may definitely represent a real alternative technique to external cardioversion.

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