Background: Amiodarone is a class III antidysrhythmic first released for human use in 1962. As with other drugs in this class, amiodarone acts by blocking potassium channels thus prolonging the action potential. This, in turn, leads to a lengthening of depolarization of the atria and ventricles. The drug spread rapidly through US hospitals as it was touted as “always works, and no side effects,” by it’s pharmaceutical manufacturer (Bruen 2016).
Of course, nothing comes free and soon after the drug became widely used, a multitude of adverse effects became apparent. These included minor issues - sun sensitivity and corneal deposits - to major ones - thyroid dysfunction (hypo- and hyperthyroidism), pulmonary toxicity and liver damage. Additionally, the medication’s mechanism of action wasn’t clean and simple - amiodarone is no known to have sodium-channel blocking (Class I), beta-blocking (Class II) and calcium-channel blocking (Class IV) effects.
Despite the multitude of issues, the drug continued to be used extensively because of it’s purported benefits. The drug was most commonly applied in the Emergency Department (ED) for conversion of atrial fibrillation, conversion of stable ventricular tachycardia and in refractory VF/VT cardiac arrest.
This post dives into the three most common places amiodarone is employed in the ED: cardioverion of atrial fibrillation, cardioversion of VT and in refractory VF/VT cardiac arrest and demonstrates that superior evidence points to better options for management....Read More
Background: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is one of the most common dysrhythmias encountered in the ED. The management of recent-onset AF and atrial flutter (AFl) in the ED continues to be debated. The discussion centers on whether patients with recent-onset AF should be rhythm controlled (e.g. converted back to sinus rhythm) or rate controlled only. This debate was showcased in a point-counterpoint in Annals of Emergency Medicine in 2011 (Stiell 2011, Decker 2011). The rhythm control supporters argue that AF/AFl is abnormal, worsens quality of life, leads to cardiac remodeling and, in may patients, requires medications for rate control and anticoagulation. The rate control group argues that cardioversion runs the risk of causing a thromboembolic event (i.e. CVA, peripheral arterial occlusion). Thus, it should not be performed until the absence of clot in the left atrium is confirmed (by TEE) or appropriate anticoagulation has occurred. It has long been taught that if the patient has been in AF/AFl for < 48 hours, the risk of developing a clot in the left atrium is negligible and cardioversion may be pursued. However, some recent literature has called this classic teaching into question (Nuotio 2014). Prospective studies looking at outcomes of recent-onset AF/AFl patients after aggressive treatment in the ED are needed to further evaluate the risks of aggressive treatment....Read More