Drug-induced fatal arrhythmias: Acquired long QT and Brugada syndromes

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Abstract

Since the early 1990s, the concept of primary “inherited” arrhythmia syndromes or ion channelopathies has evolved rapidly as a result of revolutionary progresses made in molecular genetics. Alterations in genes coding for membrane proteins such as ion channels or their associated proteins responsible for the generation of cardiac action potentials (AP) have been shown to cause specific malfunctions which eventually lead to cardiac arrhythmias. These arrhythmic disorders include congenital long QT syndrome, Brugada syndrome, catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia, short QT syndrome, progressive cardiac conduction disease, etc. Among these, long QT and Brugada syndromes are the most extensively studied, and drugs cause a phenocopy of these two diseases. To date, more than 10 different genes have been reported to be responsible for each syndrome. More recently, it was recognized that long QT syndrome can be latent, even in the presence of an unequivocally pathogenic mutation (silent mutation carrier). Co-existence of other pathological conditions in these silent mutation carriers may trigger a malignant form of ventricular arrhythmia, the so called torsade de pointes (TdP) that is most commonly brought about by drugs. In analogy to the drug-induced long QT syndrome, Brugada type 1 ECG can also be induced or unmasked by a wide variety of drugs and pathological conditions; so physicians may encounter patients with a latent form of Brugada syndrome. Of particular note, Brugada syndrome is frequently associated with atrial fibrillation whose therapeutic agents such as Vaughan Williams class IC drugs can unmask the dormant and asymptomatic Brugada syndrome. This review describes two types of drug-induced arrhythmias: the long QT and Brugada syndromes.

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