Amiodarone is an iodinated benzofuran derivative, a highly lipophilic drug with unpredictable pharmacokinetics. Although originally classified as a class III agent due to its ability to prolong refractoriness in cardiac regions and prevent/terminate re-entry, amiodarone shows antiarrhythmic properties of all four antiarrhythmic drug classes. Amiodarone is a potent coronary and peripheral vasodilator and can be safely used in patients with left ventricular dysfunction after myocardial infarction or those with congestive heart failure or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Its use is regularly accompanied with QT and QTc-interval prolongation but rarely with ventricular proarrhythmia. It is the most powerful pharmacological agent for long-term sinus rhythm maintenance in patients with atrial fibrillation. Amiodarone, particularly if co-administered with beta-blockers, reduces the rate of arrhythmic death due to ventricular tachyarrhythmias in patients with heart failure, but its benefit on cardiovascular and overall survival in these patients is uncertain. In addition, amiodarone is an important adjuvant drug for the reduction of shocks in patients with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. Over the past 40 years, amiodarone became the most prescribed antiarrhythmic. Nevertheless, the slow onset of its antiarrhythmic action requires a loading dose while the high risk of non-cardiac toxicity and common drug-drug interactions limit its long-term use. Furthermore patients treated with amiodarone require a close supervision by the treating physician. Therefore amiodarone is generally considered a secondary therapeutic option. Long-term treatment with amiodarone should be based on the use of minimal doses for satisfactory arrhythmia outcome and serial screening for thyroid, liver and pulmonary toxicity.
Keywords: Amiodarone; Anti-arrhythmic drugs; Antiarrhythmic adverse effects; Atrial fibrillation; Cardiac arrhythmias; Ventricular tachyarrhythmias.
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