Review of Contemporary Antiarrhythmic Drug Therapy for Maintenance of Sinus Rhythm in Atrial Fibrillation

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Abstract

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common rhythm disturbance seen in clinical practice, and its prevalence and incidence are rising rapidly as the population ages with its attendant complications. Management of AF involves anticoagulation, and fortunately new drugs for long-term anticoagulation are now available. Maintenance of sinus rhythm, though intuitively better than rate control strategy, has not been shown to offer mortality benefit. Still, maintenance of sinus rhythm is considered an appropriate therapeutic strategy when symptoms are not adequately controlled with rate control. Though significant advances have been made in ablation techniques for AF, pharmacological therapy is still the first line of treatment for rate control and maintenance of sinus rhythm, given ease of use, noninvasive nature, and limited experience with catheter-based ablation techniques. Class IC and III agents (Vaughan Williams classification) form the backbone for pharmacological maintenance of sinus rhythm. Dronedarone, a recently approved class III agent, provides a significant advance because of its relatively safe side effect profile. Currently drugs with selective atrial channels blocking properties, like Vernakalant, are being tested in trials and may provide an opportunity to maintain sinus rhythm with limited toxicity. Large trials are also being conducted to better define the efficacy of catheter-based ablation strategy as first-line treatment. Here, we review the current status of commonly used antiarrhythmic medications for the maintenance of sinus rhythm in AF.

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