Medications are prescribed in the management of AF (atrial fibrillation) depending on the overall treatment goal. If the goal is to restore normal heart rhythm, a type of drug called an antiarrhythmic is prescribed. If it's not possible to achieve this goal, doctors will try to manage your condition by slowing down the heart rate. In both cases, your doctor will give you drugs called anticoagulants to decrease blood clot formation.Restore normal heart rhythm
. These medications help return the heart to normal sinus rhythm and maintain normal sinus rhythm.
- Many drugs are available to restore and maintain a normal heart rhythm, including: Pronestyl (procainamide); Norpace (disopyramide phosphate); Tambocor (flecainide acetate); Rythmol (propafenone); Betapace (sotalol); Tikosyn (dofetilide); Multaq (dronedarone); and Cordarone (amiodarone).You may have to stay in the hospital when you first start taking these drugs so that your heart rhythm can be carefully monitored. These medications are effective 30% to 60% of the time, but may lose their effectiveness over time. You may need to try several medications so your doctor can find the best one for you.
- Some rhythm control medications may actually cause more arrhythmias, so it is important to discuss your symptoms and any changes in your condition with your doctor.
Heart rate control. Heart rate control drugs, such as Lanoxin (digoxin), Toprol, Lopressor (metoprolol), beta-blockers, and calcium channel blockers, are used to help slow the heart rate during atrial fibrillation. These drugs do not control the heart rhythm. You may need to take two different medications to keep your heart rate controlled.
Blood thinners or anticoagulation drugs. Anticoagulant drugs -- such as Coumadin (warfarin) and Pradaxa (dabigatran, approved in 2010) -- or antiplatelet drugs -- for example, aspirin and Plavix (clopidogrel) -- reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke. Although anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs reduce the risk of stroke, they do not eliminate the risk. Regular blood tests are required when taking Coumadin to evaluate the effectiveness and minimize the risks of the drug. Talk to your doctor about the anticoagulant medication that is right for you.
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Archived: March 20, 2014
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