External cardioversion of atrial fibrillation and flutter in patients with cardiac implantable electrical devices

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BACKGROUND: Atrial fibrillation and flutter are often treated with external electrical cardioversion (ECV) in patients with potentially electrically sensitive cardiovascular implantable electronic devices (CIED). Long-term follow-up data on contemporary CIED undergoing ECV is sparse. The aim is to investigate shock-related complications and impact on CIEDs.

METHODS: All ECV procedures from 2010 to 2020 in patients with CIED performed at a tertiary university hospital were identified in the Danish National Patient Registry. Changes in device measurements after ECV were retrospectively studied and procedure-related complications were identified by review of medical records.

RESULTS: We analyzed 763 ECV procedures in 372 patients, median device implant time 1.9 years. The mean age of patients was 69.9 ± 9.9 years of which 73.4% were men. We identified two cases of device programming changes and four cases of premature battery depletion (≤3 years after device implant). Minor changes in device measurements were found for impedances, sensing, and pacing thresholds. No patients died due to ECV-related device dysfunctions within the first 12 months after cardioversions.

CONCLUSION: External cardioversion in patients with contemporary pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators seems safe in the majority of patients. Clinically important changes in device function following cardioversion were rarely observed but may be critical for device function. In an observational study, causality between cardioversion and device dysfunction cannot be established. For patient safety, we suggest that routine device interrogation after cardioversion still should be part of standard care.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPACE - Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)108-113
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Authors. Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • CIED
  • ICD
  • Pacemaker
  • defibrillation
  • device complication
  • external cardioversion
  • interrogation


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