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May 1983

Atrial Fibrillation and Flutter: Immediate Control and Conversion With Intravenously Administered Verapamil

Author Affiliations

From the Cardiology Graphics Laboratory, Section of Cardiology (Dr Talano), and the Department of Nursing (Ms Parker), Northwestern University School of Medicine, Chicago. Dr Tommaso is now with the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore. Dr McDonough is now with Evanston (Ill) Hospital.

Arch Intern Med. 1983;143(5):877-881. doi:10.1001/archinte.1983.00350050031006

• The safety and efficacy of the intravenous (IV) calcium channel blocker, verapamil, in controlling the ventricular response or converting to sinus rhythm patients with atrial flutter or atrial fibrillation were assessed. Seventeen patients (nine with atrial flutter and eight with atrial fibrillation) with these arrhythmias that were difficult to control pharmacologically were chosen for the study. All patients at the time of study were receiving digoxin. Either verapamil or placebo was chosen randomly and a bolus of 0.075 mg/kg (up to 5 mg) was administered. Twelve patients had a marked reduction in their ventricular response after IV administration of verapamil (seven with atrial flutter and five with atrial fibrillation). None of these 12 patients converted (nonconverters). The average reduction in heart rate was from 120∓6 beats per minute to a minimum of 83∓13 beats per minute within 20 minutes after drug administration. Verapamil was found to convert five patients with atrial arrhythmias to sinus rhythm (two with atrial flutter and three with atrial fibrillation) (converters). In addition, three patients with atrial arrhythmias of less than one month who did not convert with parenteral drug therapy converted within 24 hours while receiving the oral drug. Converters had their supraventricular arrhythmias of significantly shorter duration (median, three hours v 30 days) and tended to have smaller left atrial size (3.8∓0.7 cm v 4.3∓1.3 cm) compared with the nonconverters. We conclude that verapamil is safe and effective when administered IV to patients with atrial flutter and fibrillation for control of ventricular response. In short duration atrial arrhythmias, conversion to sinus rhythm is likely once the ventricular response is controlled.

(Arch Intern Med 1983;143:877-881)