Arrhythmias in Adults With Congenital Heart Disease: What the Practicing Cardiologist Needs to Know

Can J Cardiol. 2019 Dec;35(12):1698-1707. doi: 10.1016/j.cjca.2019.07.009. Epub 2019 Jul 16.


The expanding population of adults with congenital heart disease (CHD) combined with the pervasiveness of arrhythmias has resulted in the rapid growth of a dedicated sector of cardiology at the intersection between 2 subspecialties: electrophysiology and adult CHD. Herein, practical considerations are offered regarding urgent referral for catheter ablation of atrial arrhythmias, anticoagulation, and primary prevention implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs). Patients with Ebstein anomaly and ventricular pre-excitation should be referred promptly due to the high prevalence of multiple accessory pathways and increased incidence of atrial tachyarrhythmias, which may be poorly tolerated. In patients with transposition of the great arteries and atrial switch surgery, atrial arrhythmias should be managed without delay because they could provoke ventricular arrhythmias and sudden death. Other settings in which atrial arrhythmias can be poorly tolerated include single ventricle physiology and Eisenmenger syndrome. Long-term anticoagulation is generally indicated in patients with sustained intra-atrial reentrant tachycardia or atrial fibrillation and a mechanical valve, moderate or severe systemic atrioventricular valve stenosis, traditional risk factors for stroke, and/or moderate or complex CHD. The only class I indication for a primary prevention ICD is a systemic left ventricular ejection fraction ≤ 35%, with biventricular physiology, and New York Heart Association class II or III symptoms. ICD therapy is reasonable in selected adults with tetralogy of Fallot and multiple risk factors for sudden death identified by observational studies. Indications for ICDs in patients with systemic right ventricles and univentricular hearts are less well established, underscoring the need for future research to inform risk stratification.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anticoagulants / administration & dosage
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / diagnostic imaging*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / epidemiology*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / therapy*
  • Cardiologists
  • Catheter Ablation / methods
  • Cause of Death*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Defibrillators, Implantable
  • Female
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / diagnosis
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / epidemiology*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Survival Analysis


  • Anticoagulants