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Pharmacologic Control of Rhythm*: American College of Chest Physicians Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Postoperative Atrial Fibrillation After Cardiac Surgery

Elizabeth A. Martinez, MD; Eric B. Bass, MD, MPH; Peter Zimetbaum, MD
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*From the Departments of Anesthesia (Dr. Martinez) and Medicine (Dr. Bass), The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD; and the Department of Medicine (Dr. Zimetbaum), Division of Cardiology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard University, Boston, MA.

Correspondence to: Peter Zimetbaum, MD, Division of Cardiology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 1 Deaconess Rd, Boston, MA 02215; e-mail: pzimetba@bidmc.harvard.edu



Chest. 2005;128(2_suppl):48S-55S. doi:10.1378/chest.128.2_suppl.48S
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Of the 128 articles evaluated on the overall topic of atrial fibrillation (AF) after cardiac surgery, only 19 studies dealing with pharmacologic heart rhythm control were relevant for inclusion in this analysis, indicating the relative paucity of evidence-based studies addressing this topic. We found limited data on guiding treatment for the rhythm control of AF following cardiac surgery in patients who do not require urgent cardioversion; therefore, the choice of an antiarrhythmic drug needs to be guided by patient characteristics. Based on limited available evidence, amiodarone is recommended for pharmacologic conversion of postoperative AF and AFL in patients with depressed left ventricular function who do not need urgent electrical cardioversion. This recommendation is made largely because of the effectiveness of amiodarone and also because of its relatively favorable side-effects profile. Sotalol and class 1A antiarrhythmic drugs are reasonable choices for patients with coronary artery disease who do not have congestive heart failure. There are currently no definitive data to guide the decision about the duration of antiarrhythmic drug therapy for patients with AF following cardiac surgery. Most protocols continue therapy with the antiarrhythmic drug for 4 to 6 weeks following surgery, but evidence from randomized studies is lacking.

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    Print ISSN: 0012-3692
    Online ISSN: 1931-3543