December 9, 1996

Regional Attitudes of Generalists, Specialists, and Subspecialists About Management of Atrial Fibrillation

Author Affiliations

From the Divisions of Cardiology (Drs Brodsky and Allen) and General Internal Medicine (Drs Chun, Douban, and Cygan), Department of Medicine, University of California—Irvine Medical Center; and the Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Boston University, Boston, Mass (Dr Podrid).

Arch Intern Med. 1996;156(22):2553-2562. doi:10.1001/archinte.1996.00440210063007

Background:  It is unknown whether physicians' attitudes about the management of atrial fibrillation (AF) reflect the recommendations of published guidelines.

Methods:  To obtain information about physicians' attitudes about management of AF, a questionnaire was returned by 904 (20.1%) of 4500 physicians involved in managing AF (385 cardiologists, 326 internists, and 193 electrophysiologists). The cardiologists and internists were from Massachusetts or California; the electrophysiologists were from around the United States. The questionnaire called for 86 separate answers about use of resources and drug therapy for different types of AF, including recent-onset AF, paroxysmal AF, and chronic AF of less than 6 months' and more than 3 years' duration.

Results:  Transthoracic echocardiography and thyroid function were requested by more than 90% of physicians; transesophageal echocardiography and catheterization were requested by 10% of physicians. To control ventricular response, digoxin was the overwhelming first-line therapy; calcium channel blockers were favored over β-blockers for adjunct therapy. To prevent thromboemboli, warfarin sodium was preferred for chronic AF; warfarin or aspirin were equally considered for paroxysmal AF. In considering sinus rhythm, respondents agreed about factors determining whether to revert, the number of drug trials, and the first-line drug choice (quinidine sulfate) but disagreed about second-line antiarrhythmic drugs and whether to hospitalize the patient before initiating drug therapy.

Conclusions:  Physicians ranging from primary care providers to subspecialists agree on issues of AF management such as heart rate control and anticoagulation. Attitudes vary widely about issues such as antiarrhythmic drugs.Arch Intern Med. 1996;156:2553-2562