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External cardioversion of atrial fibrillation: role of paddle position on technical efficacy and energy requirements
  1. G L Botto,
  2. A Politi,
  3. W Bonini,
  4. T Broffoni,
  5. R Bonatti
  1. Department of Cardiology, Ospedale “Sant' Anna”, Via Napoleona 60, 22100 Como, Italy
  1. Dr Botto email: ccaec{at}


AIM To define the effect of defibrillator paddle position on technical success and dc shock energy requirements of external cardioversion of atrial fibrillation.

METHODS 301 patients (mean (SD) age 62 (11) years) with stable atrial fibrillation were randomly assigned to elective external cardioversion using anterolateral paddle position (ventricular apex–right infraclavicular area; group AL (151 patients)) or anteroposterior paddle position (sternal body–angle of the left scapula; group AP (150 patients)). A step up protocol was used, delivering a 3 J/kg body weight dc shock, then a 4 J/kg shock (maximum 360 J), and finally a second 4 J/kg shock using the alternative paddle location.

RESULTS The two groups were comparable for the all clinical variables evaluated. The cumulative percentage of patients successfully converted to sinus rhythm was 58% in group AL and 67% in group AP with low energy dc shock (NS); this rose to 76% in group AL and to 87% in group AP with high energy dc shock (p = 0.013). Thirty seven patients in group AL and 19 in group AP experienced dc shock with the alternative paddle position; atrial fibrillation persisted in 10/37 in group AL and in 10/19 in group AP. Mean dc shock energy requirements were lower for group AP patients than for group AL patients, at 383 (235)v 451 (287) J, p = 0.025. Arrhythmia duration was the only factor that affected the technical success of external cardioversion (successful: 281 patients, 80 (109) days; unsuccessful: 20 patients, 193 (229) days; p < 0.0001). The success rate was lower if atrial fibrillation persisted for > 6 months: 29 of 37 (78%) v 252 of 264 (95%); p = 0.0001.

CONCLUSIONS An anteroposterior defibrillator paddle position is superior to an anterolateral location with regard to technical success in external cardioversion of stable atrial fibrillation, and permits lower dc shock energy requirements. Arrhythmia duration is the only clinical variable that can limit the restoration of sinus rhythm.

  • atrial fibrillation
  • cardioversion
  • electric countershock

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