Pharmacological prevention and termination of focal atrial fibrillation

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Patients undergo ablation for focal atrial fibrillation (AF) as a result of failure of anti-arrhythmic drugs. Our basic studies have implicated cholinergic and adrenergic neurotransmitter release as the underlying mechanism for focal AF. Therefore, we tested the efficacy of a combination of sodium channel-blocking agents with additional vagolytic properties and a β-blocker to terminate and prevent focal AF.

Methods and results

In 18 Na-pentobarbital-anaesthetized dogs, after a right or left thoracotomy, acetylcholine (Ach, 0.5 cc, 100 mM) was injected into a fat pad containing ganglionated plexi (GP) or applied on an atrial appendage (AA) to induce focal firing at the pulmonary veins (PVs) or AA, respectively. Disopyramide (2–4 mg/kg, n= 6) or quinidine (3–6 mg/kg, n= 12) combined with esmolol or propranolol (1 mg/kg, n= 13 and 5, respectively) were slowly injected to terminate (Group I, n= 12) or prevent (Group II, n= 6) Ach-induced sustained focal AF. In another four dogs, only the sodium channel-blocking agents with additional vagolytic properties or only the β-blocker was injected prior to or after the initiation of focal AF. At baseline, the mean duration of AF induced by Ach was 26 ± 4 min. Group I: After drugs, Ach-induced AF duration was 3 ± 1 min (P< 0.001). Group II: Prior to drugs, Ach-induced AF lasted for 19 ± 3 min. With the drug combination the duration of Ach-induced AF, decreased to 6 ± 1/min, P< 0.001. Either quinidine or propranolol alone did not change the duration of Ach-induced AF, mean 25 ± 10 min compared with Ach alone, 28 ± 16 min, P= 0.2.


Type IA (cholinergic antagonist) plus Type II (β-adrenergic antagonist) provides significant prevention and suppression of focal AF arising at PV and non-PV sites.

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