Antiarrhythmic Medicines for Fast Heart Rates
How It Works
Antiarrhythmic medicines work in various
ways to return the heart to its normal rhythm. These medicines stabilize heart
rhythm. One way is by decreasing abnormal firing of the heart's electrical system that
causes the heart to beat too fast. Another way is by slowing the electrical conduction
through abnormal pathways. Some antiarrhythmics also slow the heart rate by
reducing the number of impulses that can pass through the
atrioventricular (AV) node (amiodarone, sotalol).
Why It Is Used
Antiarrhythmic medicines are used to
change an abnormal heart rhythm to a regular rhythm and to prevent an abnormal
How Well It Works
Antiarrhythmic medicines can
effectively control or prevent abnormal heart rhythms.1 There are many different
types of antiarrhythmic medicines. You may need to try different medicines to
see which one works best for you.
Some antiarrhythmic medicines may increase
the risk of developing a more rapid, abnormal heart rate problem (ventricular
tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation), especially for those people who have a
poorly functioning left ventricle. Close monitoring while taking these
medicines is important.
Side effects of antiarrhythmics include:
- Chest pain.
- Unusual taste in the mouth.
- Constipation or diarrhea.
- Vision problems.
retention in men.
- Thyroid disorders.
- Blue tinge to the
skin (with amiodarone).
Amiodarone (Cordarone) may
cause serious side effects that can lead to death, including lung damage, liver
damage, and more severe heartbeat problems. Amiodarone is typically used for
people who have severe symptoms when other medicines have failed.
If you take amiodarone and simvastatin, which is a cholesterol medicine,
you may have a higher risk of a serious muscle problem called
rhabdomyolysis. Simvastatin medicines include Zocor
Talk to your doctor if you have any side effects or
any concerns about taking amiodarone.
See Drug Reference for a
full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all
What To Think About
You should learn to
take your pulse if you are taking an antiarrhythmic medicine. Let your
doctor know if your heart rhythm becomes too slow (less than 50 beats per minute) or
irregular while you are taking an antiarrhythmic medicine.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Drugs for cardiac arrhythmias (2007). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 5(58): 51-58.