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Am J Cardiol. 2013 Jan 15;111(2):225-30. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2012.09.020. Epub 2012 Oct 27.

Comparison of four single-drug regimens on ventricular rate and arrhythmia-related symptoms in patients with permanent atrial fibrillation.

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Department of Medical Research, Vestre Viken Hospital Trust, Bærum Hospital, Rud, Norway.


Rate control of atrial fibrillation (AF) is a main treatment modality. However, data are scarce on the relative efficacy of calcium channel blockers and β blockers or between drugs within each class. The purpose of the present study was to compare the effect of 4 rate-reducing, once-daily drug regimens on the ventricular heart rate and arrhythmia-related symptoms in patients with permanent AF. We included 60 patients (mean age 71 ± 9 years, 18 women) with permanent AF in an investigator-blind cross-over study. Diltiazem 360 mg/day, verapamil 240 mg/day, metoprolol 100 mg/day, and carvedilol 25 mg/day were administered for 3 weeks in a randomized sequence. The 24-hour heart rate was measured using Holter monitoring, and arrhythmia-related symptoms were assessed using the Symptom Checklist questionnaire before randomization and on the last day of each treatment period. The 24-hour mean heart rate was 96 ± 12 beats/min at baseline (no treatment), 75 ± 10 beats/min with diltiazem, 81 ± 11 beats/min with verapamil, 82 ± 11 beats/min with metoprolol, and 84 ± 11 beats/min with carvedilol. All drugs reduced the heart rate compared to baseline (p <0.001 for all). The 24-hour heart rate was significantly lower with diltiazem than with any other drug tested (p <0.001 for all). Compared to baseline, diltiazem significantly reduced both the frequency (p <0.001) and the severity (p = 0.005) of symptoms. In contrast, verapamil reduced symptom frequency only (p = 0.012). In conclusion, diltiazem 360 mg/day was the most effective drug regimen for reducing the heart rate in patients with permanent AF. Arrhythmia-related symptoms were reduced by treatment with the calcium channel blockers diltiazem and verapamil, but not by the β blockers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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