Preoperative amiodarone as prophylaxis against atrial fibrillation after heart surgery

N Engl J Med. 1997 Dec 18;337(25):1785-91. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199712183372501.


Background: Atrial fibrillation occurs commonly after open-heart surgery and may delay hospital discharge. The purpose of this study was to assess the use of preoperative amiodarone as prophylaxis against atrial fibrillation after cardiac surgery.

Methods: In this double-blind, randomized study, 124 patients were given either oral amiodarone (64 patients) or placebo (60 patients) for a minimum of seven days before elective cardiac surgery. Therapy consisted of 600 mg of amiodarone per day for seven days, then 200 mg per day until the day of discharge from the hospital. The mean (+/-SD) preoperative total dose of amiodarone was 4.8+/-0.96 g over a period of 13+/-7 days.

Results: Postoperative atrial fibrillation occurred in 16 of the 64 patients in the amiodarone group (25 percent) and 32 of the 60 patients in the placebo group (53 percent) (P=0.003). Patients in the amiodarone group were hospitalized for significantly fewer days than were patients in the placebo group (6.5+/-2.6 vs. 7.9+/-4.3 days, P=0.04). Nonfatal postoperative complications occurred in eight amiodarone-treated patients (12 percent) and in six patients receiving placebo (10 percent, P=0.78). Fatal postoperative complications occurred in three patients who received amiodarone (5 percent) and in two who received placebo (3 percent, P= 1.00). Total hospitalization costs were significantly less for the amiodarone group than for the placebo group ($18,375+/-$13,863 vs. $26,491+/-$23,837, P=0.03).

Conclusions: Preoperative oral amiodarone in patients undergoing complex cardiac surgery is well tolerated and significantly reduces the incidence of postoperative atrial fibrillation and the duration and cost of hospitalization.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Amiodarone / economics
  • Amiodarone / therapeutic use*
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / economics
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology
  • Atrial Fibrillation / prevention & control*
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Hospital Costs
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / mortality
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Premedication*
  • Prevalence


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Amiodarone