Analysis of the surface electrocardiogram for monitoring and predicting antiarrhythmic drug effects in atrial fibrillation

Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 2004 Sep;18(5):377-86. doi: 10.1007/s10557-005-5062-z.


Specific antiarrhythmic therapy with class I and III drugs for atrial fibrillation (AF) conversion and prevention of its recurrence is frequently utilized in clinical practice. Besides being only moderate effective, the utilization of antiarrhythmic drugs may be associated with serious side effects. In the clinical setting it is difficult to directly evaluate the effects of antiarrhythmic drugs on the individual patient's atrial electrophysiology, thereby predicting their efficacy in restoring and maintaining sinus rhythm. Analysis of the surface electrocardiogram in terms of P-wave signal averaged ECG during sinus rhythm and spectral characterization of fibrillatory waves during AF for evaluation of atrial antiarrhythmic drug effects is a new field of investigation. Both techniques provide reproducible parameters for characterizing atrial electrical abnormalities and seem to contain prognostic information regarding antiarrhythmic drug efficacy. Further research is needed which elucidates the most challenging clinical questions in AF management whom to place on antiarrhythmic drug treatment and what antiarrhythmic drug to prescribe. Analysis of the surface ECG might have the potential to answer these questions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents* / adverse effects
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / drug therapy
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / physiopathology
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / prevention & control
  • Electrocardiography*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Heart Conduction System* / drug effects
  • Heart Conduction System* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Recurrence


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents