Management of supraventricular arrhythmias in adults with congenital heart disease

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Supraventricular arrhythmias are a frequent complication in adults with congenital heart disease (ACHD). The prevalence increases with time since surgery, complexity of the underlying defect, type of repair and older age at surgery. Arrhythmias are the most frequent reason for hospital admission and along with heart failure the leading cause of death. The arrhythmia-associated increase in morbidity and mortality makes their management a key task in patients with ACHD. Intra-atrial re-entry is the most frequent arrhythmia mechanism. Less common arrhythmia mechanisms are supraventricular tachycardias in the presence of an accessory pathway, atrioventricular nodal re-entrant tachycardia or focal tachycardias. Patient management includes stroke prevention, acute termination and prevention of arrhythmia recurrence. Acute treatment depends on patients’ symptoms. In cases of haemodynamic instability, immediate cardioversion is warranted. For stable patients, acute treatment includes rate control and termination by antiarrhythmic drugs or electrical cardioversion. Following a symptomatic arrhythmia, catheter ablation or treatment with antiarrhythmic drugs is recommended to prevent recurrences. Advances in mapping and ablation technology are now associated with high success rates of catheter ablation. In patients with a complex substrate recurrence rates of 50% remain high. However, in the presence of side effects and complications associated with long-term antiarrhythmic drug therapy, redo procedures are encouraged by current guidelines.

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