Skip to content

Heart Failure Health Center

Font Size

Medicines to Prevent Abnormal Heart Rhythm in Heart Failure - Topic Overview

One of the most frightening aspects about having heart failure is that it can lead to premature death. The increased death rate among people with heart failure is in part caused by the tendency of those with heart failure to develop abnormal heart rhythms.

Some people with heart failure die suddenly from abnormal rapid heart rhythms (called ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation) that begin in the damaged muscle of the heart. These abnormal rapid heart rhythms are dangerous, because they start without warning and dramatically reduce the heart's ability to pump blood. If the abnormal rhythm does not stop on its own after a short period of time, death results from reduced blood flow to the brain and vital organs.

Recommended Related to Heart Failure

Understanding Heart Failure -- Diagnosis and Treatment

Doctors diagnose heart failure by taking a medical history and conducting a physical exam and tests. During the medical history your doctor will want to know if: You have any other health problems such as diabetes, kidney disease, angina (chest pain), high blood pressure, or other heart problems You smoke You drink alcohol, and if so, how much You are taking medications. During the physical, the doctor will check your blood pressure, use a stethoscope to hear sounds associated...

Read the Understanding Heart Failure -- Diagnosis and Treatment article > >

What antiarrhythmic agents are used?

Beta-blockers have been proved to increase the survival of people with heart failure. It is not entirely clear how this occurs, but it is suspected that a major factor is their ability to prevent ventricular arrhythmias. Beta-blockers can be very effective at preventing single abnormal beats of the heart muscle, called premature ventricular contractions, which experts think are a common trigger of ventricular arrhythmias. These beneficial effects have been observed for essentially all beta-blockers. The ability of beta-blockers to prevent ventricular arrhythmias further emphasizes why all people with heart failure should be taking them.

Of equal importance, beta-blockers do not have any proarrhythmic effects, even in people with very abnormal left ventricular function. When a medicine increases the occurrence of arrhythmias, it is said to have a "proarrhythmic" effect.

Amiodarone is an antiarrhythmic medicine. Amiodarone may not be useful for everyone with heart failure. Although amiodarone may prevent abnormal heart rhythms, it has not been shown to lengthen the lives of people with heart failure.1 Also, amiodarone has many side effects. Your doctor will help you decide whether taking amiodarone is right for you. Your heart rhythm may be monitored continuously for a 24- or 48-hour period using a Holter monitor. If you take amiodarone, you will need to see your doctor periodically to find out whether you are developing any side effects.

You may take amiodarone if you have an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), a device that is implanted in your chest to control your heart rhythm. This device is an alternative to or an addition to antiarrhythmic medicines such as amiodarone. Amiodarone is used so that you will need fewer shocks from the ICD to control your heart.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Medicines to Prevent Abnormal Heart Rhythm in Heart Failure Topics

    Today on WebMD

    Compressed heart
    Article
    Salt Shockers
    Slideshow
     
    Inside A Heart Attack
    Slideshow
    lowering blood pressure
    SLIDESHOW
     

    Mechanical Heart
    Article
    Omega 3 Overview Slideshow
    Slideshow
     
    Atrial Fibrillation Guide
    Slideshow
    Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
    Slideshow
     

    Compressed heart
    Article
    FAQ Heart Failure
    Article
     
    Cholesterol Confusion
    Health Check
    Resolved To Quit Smoking
    Slideshow
     

    WebMD Special Sections