Metoprolol versus amiodarone in the prevention of atrial fibrillation after cardiac surgery: a randomized trial

Ann Intern Med. 2010 Dec 7;153(11):703-9. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-153-11-201012070-00003.


Background: Current guidelines recommend β-blockers as the first-line preventive treatment of atrial fibrillation (AF) after cardiac surgery. Despite this, 19% of physicians report using amiodarone as first-line prophylaxis of postoperative AF. Data directly comparing the efficacy of these agents in preventing postoperative AF are lacking.

Objective: To determine whether intravenous metoprolol and amiodarone are equally effective in preventing postoperative AF after cardiac surgery.

Design: Randomized, prospective, equivalence, open-label, multicenter study. ( registration number: NCT00784316)

Setting: 3 cardiac care referral centers in Finland.

Patients: 316 consecutive patients who were hemodynamically stable and free of mechanical ventilation and AF within 24 hours after cardiac surgery.

Intervention: Patients were randomly assigned to receive 48-hour infusion of metoprolol, 1 to 3 mg/h, according to heart rate, or amiodarone, 15 mg/kg of body weight daily, with a maximum daily dose of 1000 mg, starting 15 to 21 hours after cardiac surgery.

Measurements: The primary end point was the occurrence of the first AF episode or completion of the 48-hour infusion.

Results: Atrial fibrillation occurred in 38 of 159 (23.9%) patients in the metoprolol group and 39 of 157 (24.8%) patients in the amiodarone group (P = 0.85). However, the difference (-0.9 percentage point [90% CI, -8.9 to 7.0 percentage points]) does not meet the prespecified equivalence margin of 5 percentage points. The adjusted hazard ratio of the metoprolol group compared with the amiodarone group was 1.09 (95% CI, 0.67 to 1.76).

Limitations: Caregivers were not blinded to treatment allocation, and the trial evaluated only stable patients who were not at particularly elevated risk for AF. The withdrawal of preoperative β-blocker therapy may have increased the risk for AF in the amiodarone group.

Conclusion: The occurrence of AF was similar in the metoprolol and amiodarone groups. However, because of the wide range of the CIs, the authors cannot conclude that the 2 treatments were equally effective.

Primary funding source: The Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research and the Kuopio University EVO Foundation.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / adverse effects
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Aged
  • Amiodarone / adverse effects
  • Amiodarone / therapeutic use*
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / prevention & control*
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Metoprolol / adverse effects
  • Metoprolol / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Metoprolol
  • Amiodarone

Associated data