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Herz. 2005 Mar;30(2):91-101.

Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy. Antiarrhythmic drugs, catheter ablation, or ICD?

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  • 1Department of Cardiology and Angiology, University Hospital of Münster, Münster, Germany.


Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is a major cause of sudden cardiac death and ventricular tachyarrhythmias in young, apparently healthy individuals and athletes. Myocardial atrophy with subsequent fibrofatty replacement predominantly affects right ventricular myocardium and results in global and regional dysfunction as well as areas of slow conduction and dispersion of refractoriness which are prerequisites for reentrant ventricular tachyarrhythmias. Patients affected with ARVC should be excluded from competitive sports and vigorous training. To provide optimal treatment, a detailed diagnostic evaluation and risk stratification are mandatory. Tailored treatment strategies aim at the suppression or effective termination of recurrent ventricular tachyarrhythmias and prevention of sudden death by antiarrhythmic drug therapy, catheter ablation, or implantation of a cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). Antiarrhythmic drugs may be used as a stand-alone treatment to suppress ventricular tachycardia (VT) recurrences in patients with ARVC and low risk of sudden death. Sotalol (preferred) or amiodarone in combination with beta-blockers showed the highest efficacy rates. In patients at higher risk, an ICD should be implanted and antiarrhythmic drugs be used only as an adjunct to prevent or suppress frequent VT recurrences and ICD discharges. Catheter ablation using conventional or electroanatomic mapping techniques yields good acute results for eliminating the targeted arrhythmia substrate. However, during the progressive long-term course of ARVC, VT recurrences from new arrhythmia foci are frequent and therefore limit the curative value of catheter ablation. In patients with frequent VT recurrences and ICD discharges, however, catheter ablation plays an important role as a palliative and adjunctive treatment option for arrhythmia suppression. ICD therapy has been increasingly used for secondary and also primary prevention of sudden death in patients with ARVC. In secondary prevention, the ICD has shown to improve the long-term prognosis of patients at high risk of sudden death by effective termination of life-threatening recurrences of ventricular tachyarrhythmias. However, adequate lead placement may be difficult and lead-related complications during long-term follow-up must be taken into account. The role of ICD therapy for primary prevention of sudden death in ARVC is not yet adequately defined. Ongoing international registries will provide important additional data to improve risk stratification and refine treatment algorithms in order to select the best individual treatment for arrhythmia suppression and prevention of sudden death in patients with ARVC.

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