The aim of this review is to summarise the latest evidence on efficacy and safety of treatments for new-onset atrial fibrillation (NOAF) in critical illness.
Critically ill adult patients who developed NOAF during admission.
Primary outcomes were efficacy in achieving rate or rhythm control, as defined in each study. Secondary outcomes included mortality, stroke, bleeding and adverse events.
We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE and Web of Knowledge on 11 March 2019 to identify randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and observational studies reporting treatment efficacy for NOAF in critically ill patients. Data were extracted, and quality assessment was performed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool, and an adapted Newcastle-Ottawa Scale.
Of 1406 studies identified, 16 remained after full-text screening including two RCTs. Study quality was generally low due to a lack of randomisation, absence of blinding and small cohorts. Amiodarone was the most commonly studied agent (10 studies), followed by beta-blockers (8), calcium channel blockers (6) and magnesium (3). Rates of successful rhythm control using amiodarone varied from 30.0% to 95.2%, beta-blockers from 31.8% to 92.3%, calcium channel blockers from 30.0% to 87.1% and magnesium from 55.2% to 77.8%. Adverse effects of treatment were rarely reported (five studies).
The reported efficacy of beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, magnesium and amiodarone for achieving rhythm control was highly varied. As there is currently significant variation in how NOAF is managed in critically ill patients, we recommend future research focuses on comparing the efficacy and safety of amiodarone, beta-blockers and magnesium. Further research is needed to inform the decision surrounding anticoagulant use in this patient group.

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2020. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.