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J Cardiovasc Pharmacol Ther. 2005 Jun;10 Suppl 1:S33-43.

Antiadrenergic therapy in the control of atrial fibrillation.

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  • Division of Cardiology, Penn State University, College of Medicine, The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, PA. gnaccarelli@psu.edu


Atrial fibrillation (AF) in heart failure develops commonly in older individuals and its prevalence increases as heart failure severity progresses. Because of deteriorating hemodynamics, patients with heart failure are at increased risk for developing AF and, conversely, AF in heart failure patients is associated with adverse hemodynamic changes. AF is believed to increase the mortality risk in heart failure, which may be minimized by treatment that includes the control of ventricular rate, prevention of thrombotic events, and conversion to normal sinus rhythm. Clinical guidelines recommend amiodarone or dofetilide in heart failure patients, but these drugs have certain drawbacks, such as an increased risk for bradyarrhythmias with amiodarone and proarrhythmic reaction with dofetilide. Some but not all clinical trials have suggested that rate control should be the primary therapeutic goal in high-risk heart failure patients with AF and, if unsuccessful, followed by rhythm control. The former is effectively achieved with rate-lowering beta-blockers alone or in combination with digoxin. Recent studies evaluating the effects of combination carvedilol/digoxin therapy demonstrate synergistic effects between the two drugs. This combination therapy decreased heart failure symptoms, effectively reduced ventricular rate, and improved ventricular function to a greater extent compared with that produced by either drug alone. Although digoxin alone is an effective heart failure treatment, its use as a single rate-control therapy is often ineffective in heart failure patients with AF associated with rapid ventricular response. Carvedilol is effective, alone or in combination, with digoxin in such heart failure patients with AF, and has been shown to reduce mortality risk in patients with chronic heart failure during prolonged therapy.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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