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Effect of electrophysiology assessment on mortality and hospitalizations in patients with new-onset atrial fibrillation

Singh SM, Webster L, Qiu F, Austin PC, Ko DT, Tu JV, Wijeysundera HC. Am J Cardiol. 2018; 12(7):830-5. Epub 2018 Jan 9.

Few patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) receive care by cardiac electrophysiologists. Although previous work has highlighted differential care for patients with AF treated by electrophysiologists, it is unclear whether this is associated with improved clinical outcomes. This retrospective population-level propensity score-matched cohort study included patients aged 20 to 80 years with new-onset AF presenting to an emergency department (ED) in Ontario, Canada, between 2010 and 2012. Patients were followed until March 31, 2015. Patients who saw an electrophysiologist within 1 year of the index ED visit were matched to patients who did not see an electrophysiologist. Linked administrative databases were used for cohort construction and allow 1-year follow-up to assess for the clinical end points of all-cause mortality and hospitalization for AF, heart failure, bleeding, and stroke. A total of 5,221 unique pairs of patients were matched. One hundred seventeen patients (2.2%) in the electrophysiologist cohort underwent an AF ablation procedure during the 1-year follow-up period. All-cause mortality (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.1, p = 0.17) and stroke (HR = 1.4, p = 0.09) were not significantly different between the 2 groups. Hospitalization for AF (HR = 1.4, p <0.001), bleeding (HR = 1.5, p = 0.0001), and congestive heart failure (HR = 1.5, p <0.0001) was increased in the group that saw an electrophysiologist. In conclusion, electrophysiologist care was not associated with improved clinical outcomes in patients with new-onset AF.