Atrial pacing for conversion of atrial flutter
Fifty-seven episodes of atrial flutter in 46 consecutive medically treated patients (aged 60 +/- 17 years) were treated by rapid atrial pacing. Thirty-three patients (72%) had structural heart disease. Most pacing trials were conducted in patients receiving digoxin (88%) and antiarrhythmic drugs (77%). In 51 of 57 trials (89%), patients were successfully converted to normal sinus rhythm. Multivariate analysis revealed that patients who had congestive heart failure and who were older were more likely to be refractory to pacing. Left atrial size did not influence outcome. Confirmation of local atrial capture with a bipolar atrial electrogram and use of multiple atrial pacing sites enhanced the success rate. Eight patients (17%) demonstrated sinus node suppression after atrial pacing; sinus node disease was previously unsuspected in 4 of these patients. These bradyarrhythmias were easily managed because a pacing catheter was already in place. The only significant complication was femoral vein thrombosis in 1 patient. It is concluded that atrial pacing is an effective, safe and convenient method for the elective conversion of atrial flutter in the general population of medically treated patients. This technique is an attractive alternative to transthoracic cardioversion, and may be preferable in many patients.