Background: Chronic atrial fibrillation (CAF) is a serious condition with significant morbidity and mortality. The mainstay of drug therapy for the conversion of atrial fibrillation to sinus rhythm continues to be quinidine. The value and safety of intravenously (i.v.) administered amiodarone therapy vs quinidine sulfate therapy was compared in a cohort of patients with CAF of more than 3 weeks' duration.
Objectives: To evaluate the efficacy of i.v. administered amiodarone and oral quinidine sulfate containing 300 mg of quinidine in the conversion of CAF and to assess the effect of oral amiodarone in the conversion of CAF in the patients in whom CAF did not convert with IV amiodarone.
Methods: Thirty-two patients with CAF of more than 3 weeks' duration were randomized to either i.v. amiodarone treatment or oral digoxin/quinidine treatment in a randomized unblinded single crossover study. The converters continued either oral amiodarone therapy or quinidine extended-action tablet (Quinidex) therapy.
Results: Seventeen patients were randomized to the quinidine group and 15 patients to the amiodarone group. Nonconverters from the quinidine group crossed over to the amiodarone group. Amiodarone and quinidine were equally effective at 24 hours in converting CAF (eight [47%] of 17 patients in the quinidine group vs 12 [44%] of 27 patients in the amiodarone group; P, not significant). At 2 and 9 months of oral therapy, amiodarone was superior to quinidine in maintaining sinus rhythm. Only two of eight patients in the quinidine group tolerated the medication. All patients in the amiodarone group tolerated the medication. One additional patient converted to sinus rhythm at 2 months (13 [48%] of 27), and five more patients converted at 9 months (18 [67%] of 27). Amiodarone therapy and digoxin/quinidine therapy were equally effective at 48 hours in controlling ventricular response at rest.
Conclusions: During the first 48 hours of treatment, i.v. amiodarone and oral quinidine were equally effective in converting CAF to sinus rhythm. At 2 and 9 months of therapy, treatment with oral amiodarone was superior to that of quinidine in restoring sinus rhythm. Long-term treatment with oral amiodarone is better tolerated than with quinidine.