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The safety and effectiveness of a nurse led cardioversion service under sedation


Objective: To assess the safety and effectiveness of nurse led elective cardioversion of atrial fibrillation under sedation.

Design: Prospective, longitudinal study.

Setting: Cardiac catheterisation laboratory and recovery area of a district general hospital.

Patients: 300 patients referred for elective cardioversion of persistent atrial fibrillation.

Interventions: Pre-procedure evaluations (history, physical examination, blood tests), consent, sedation administration, cardioversions, and post-procedure monitoring until discharge by advanced life support certified coronary care unit nurses trained in the techniques. A doctor was immediately available if required but not present.

Main outcome measures: Success rates at discharge and at six weeks, energy delivered, number of shocks, dose of sedation, immediate, 24, and 48 hour patient perceptions, complications, waiting times, and cost effectiveness.

Results: Cardioversion success rate was 87% at discharge and 48% at six weeks. Mean (SD) cumulative energy was 497 (282) J and number of shocks 1.6 (0.8). Mean (SD) dose of sedation was 23 (9) mg intravenous diazepam. No patient required reversal of sedation, airway support, or medical intervention. Ninety eight per cent of patients had no pain or recall of the procedure. Four patients who were adequately anticoagulated experienced embolic phenomena. Ninety eight per cent of patients would repeat the procedure if necessary. Without requirement for a physician or anaesthetist, waiting times for elective cardioversion fell from three months to under four weeks. There was a significant reduction in the estimated cost of the procedure from £337 with general anaesthesia to £130 with nurse led sedation and cardioversion (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: With appropriate training, a nurse led cardioversion service with sedation is safe, effective, well tolerated, and cost efficient.

  • AF, atrial fibrillation
  • ALS, advanced cardiac life support
  • INR, international normalised ratio
  • UKCC, United Kingdom Central Council
  • sedation
  • cardioversion
  • atrial fibrillation
  • nurse practitioner

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