Conversion efficacy and safety of intravenous ibutilide compared with intravenous procainamide in patients with atrial flutter or fibrillation

J Am Coll Cardiol. 1998 May;31(6):1414-9. doi: 10.1016/s0735-1097(98)00078-3.


Objectives: This multicenter study compared the efficacy and safety of ibutilide versus procainamide for conversion of recent-onset atrial flutter or fibrillation.

Background: Ibutilide fumarate is an intravenous (IV) class III antiarrhythmic agent that has been shown to be significantly more effective than placebo in the pharmacologic conversion of atrial flutter and fibrillation to sinus rhythm. Procainamide is commonly used for conversion of recent-onset atrial fibrillation to normal sinus rhythm.

Methods: One hundred twenty-seven patients (age range 22 to 92 years) with atrial flutter or fibrillation of 3 h to 90 days' (mean 21 days) duration were randomized to receive either two 10-min IV infusions of 1 mg of ibutilide fumarate, separated by a 10-min infusion of 5% dextrose in sterile water, or three successive 10-min IV infusions of 400 mg of procainamide hydrochloride.

Results: Of the 127 patients, 120 were evaluated for efficacy: 35 (58.3%) of 60 in the ibutilide group compared with 11 (18.3%) of 60 in the procainamide group had successful termination within 1.5 h of treatment (p < 0.0001). Seven patients were found to have violated the protocol and were not included in the final evaluation. In the patients with atrial flutter, ibutilide had a significantly higher success rate than procainamide (76% [13 of 17] vs. 14% [3 of 22], p=0.001). Similarly, in the atrial fibrillation group, ibutilide had a significantly higher success rate than procainamide (51% [22 of 43] vs. 21% [8 of 38], p=0.005). One patient who received ibutilide, which was found to be a protocol violation, had sustained polymorphic ventricular tachycardia requiring direct current cardioversion. Seven patients who received procainamide became hypotensive.

Conclusions: This study establishes the superior efficacy of ibutilide over procainamide when administered to patients to convert either atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter to sinus rhythm. Hypotension was the major adverse effect seen with procainamide. A low incidence of serious proarrhythmia was seen with the administration of ibutilide occurring at the end of infusion.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / drug therapy*
  • Atrial Flutter / drug therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electric Countershock
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Procainamide / therapeutic use*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sulfonamides / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Sulfonamides
  • ibutilide
  • Procainamide