Old and new antiarrhythmic drugs for converting and maintaining sinus rhythm in atrial fibrillation: Comparative efficacy and results of trials

Gerald V. Naccarelli, Deborah L. Wolbrette, Mazhar Khan, Luna Bhatta, John Hynes, Soraya Samii, Jerry Luck

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

171 Scopus citations


In managing atrial fibrillation (AF), the main therapeutic strategies include rate control, termination of the arrhythmia, and the prevention of recurrences and thromboembolic events. Safety and efficacy considerations are important in optimizing the choice of an antiarrhythmic drug for the treatment of AF. Recently approved antiarrhythmics, such as dofetilide, and promising investigational drugs, such as azimilide and dronedarone, may change the treatment landscape for AF. For medical conversion of recent-onset AF, class IC antiarrhythmic drugs, administered as an oral bolus, have been demonstrated to be the most efficacious pharmacologic conversion agents. Intravenous ibutilide and oral dofetilide both have efficacies superior to placebo in controlled trials for converting persistent AF. Comparative trials in paroxysmal AF have demonstrated that flecainide, propafenone, quinidine, and sotalol are equally effective in preventing recurrences of AF. Amiodarone has been demonstrated to be more efficacious than propafenone or sotalol in the Canadian Trial of Atrial Fibrillation. In persistent AF, twice-daily dofetilide has been shown to be as or more effective than low-dose sotalol given twice daily for the maintenance of sinus rhythm in patients with AF. Trials have demonstrated that subjective adverse effects are less frequent with class IC drugs, sotalol, and dofetilide compared with such drugs as quinidine. In patients without structural heart disease, flecainide, propafenone, and D,L-sotalol are the initial drugs of choice, given their reasonable efficacy, low incidence of subjective side effects, and lack of significant end-organ toxicity. Treating AF in patients with left ventricular dysfunction can be difficult because of associated electrophysiologic derangements, potential proarrhythmic concerns, and negative inotropic effects of antiarrhythmics. Some data exist suggesting that angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers can prevent AF either by preventing atrial dilation and stretch-induced arrhythmias or by blocking the renin-angiotensin system. In post-myocardial infarction patients, D,L-sotalol, dofetilide, and amiodarone - and in congestive heart failure patients, amiodarone and dofetilide - have demonstrated neutral effects on survival in controlled trials. In the Congestive Heart Failure Survival Trial of Antiarrhythmic Therapy (CHF-STAT), amiodarone lowered the frequency of AF development and improved left ventricular ejection fraction over time. In CHF-STAT, there was lower mortality in patients who converted from AF to sinus rhythm. Dofetilide decreased rehospitalization for congestive heart failure in the Danish Investigations of Arrhythmia and Mortality on Dofetilide (DIAMOND) trials. Neutral effects on survival and favorable hemodynamics have positioned amiodarone and dofetilide as the antiarrhythmics of choice in patients with left ventricular dysfunction. In post-myocardial infarction patients, sotalol is an additional agent to consider for treatment of AF in this setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-26
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Cardiology
Issue number6 SUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Mar 20 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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