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Intravenous administration of flecainide or propafenone in patients with recent-onset atrial fibrillation does not predict adverse effects during ‘pill-in-the-pocket’ treatment
  1. Paolo Alboni1,
  2. Giovanni L Botto2,
  3. Giuseppe Boriani3,
  4. Giovanni Russo2,
  5. Federico Pacchioni1,
  6. Matteo Iori4,
  7. Giovanni Pasanisi5,
  8. Marina Mancini6,
  9. Barbara Mariconti2,
  10. Alessandro Capucci7
  1. 1Division of Cardiology, Civil Hospital, Cento, Italy
  2. 2Division of Cardiology, S Anna Hospital, Como, Italy
  3. 3Institute of Cardiology, University of Bologna, S Orsola-Malpighi Hospital, Bologna, Italy
  4. 4Division of Cardiology, S Maria Nuova Hospital, Reggio Emilia, Italy
  5. 5Division of Cardiology, Delta Hospital, Lagosanto, Italy
  6. 6Division of Cardiology, Civil Hospital, Sampierdarena, Italy
  7. 7Institute of Cardiology, Polytechnical University of Marche-Ancona, Torrette Hospital, Ancona, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Dr Paolo Alboni, Division of Cardiology, Ospedale Civile, Cento (FE) 44042, Italy; p.alboni{at}


Background Pill-in-the-pocket treatment should be prescribed only if the administration of a loading oral dose of flecainide or propafenone has been proved safe in hospital, since major adverse effects have been reported in 5% of patients during in-hospital treatment. However, in emergency rooms, the oral administration of these drugs for the conversion of atrial fibrillation (AF) is very rarely used because it is time consuming.

Objective To investigate whether tolerance to intravenous administration of flecainide or propafenone might predict the safety of pill-in-the-pocket treatment—the out-of-hospital self-administration of these drugs after the onset of palpitations—in patients with AF of recent onset.

Methods One hundred and twenty-two patients with AF of recent onset who were successfully treated (conversion of AF within 2 h without major adverse effects) in hospital with intravenous flecainide or propafenone were discharged on pill-in-the-pocket treatment.

Results During a mean follow-up of 11±4 months, 79 patients self-treated 213 arrhythmic episodes; treatment was successful in 201 episodes (94%). Major adverse events occurred in five patients (6%) and in four (5%) of these during the first oral treatment (one syncope, two presyncope, one sinus arrest). No patient reported symptoms attributable to bradyarrhythmia or hypotension during the self-treatment of arrhythmic recurrences when the first oral treatment was not accompanied by any major adverse effects. The study was prematurely terminated because of the high incidence of major adverse effects during the first out-of-hospital treatment.

Conclusion The patient's tolerance of intravenous administration of flecainide or propafenone does not seem to predict adverse effects during out-of-hospital self-administration of these drugs.

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • flecainide
  • propafenone
  • antiarrhythmic drugs

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  • Funding The study was sponsored by Associazione Italiana di Aritmologia e Cardiostimolazione (AIAC).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval The research protocol has been approved by the ethics committee of each centre and informed consent has been obtained by all the patients.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.