Table 1

Classification of atrial fibrillation and therapeutic strategies

TypeDuration and characterTherapeutic strategy*
*Oral anticoagulation or aspirin as needed on the basis of risk factors (table 3) or in case of cardioversion. AAD, antiarrhythmic drugs; VW, Vaughan Williams
First episode?Conversion and prevention either with AAD or electrical cardioversion
Paroxysmal< 48 hours, mostly spontaneous conversion (self terminating)Conversion and prevention with VW class IC or III antiarrhythmic drugs. Rate control during arrhythmia
Persistent>2–7 days, usually requires electrical cardioversion to restore sinus rhythm (non-self terminating)Electrical cardioversion with/without antiarrhythmic drugs
PermanentRestoration of sinus rhythm not feasibleVentricular rate control