Drugs used to treat abnormal rhythms from the ventricles, the bottom chambers of the heart, are called ventricular antiarrhythmic drugs. They are most often used:
To control distressing (and often disabling) symptoms
To prevent more dangerous rhythms from occurring
To prevent life-threatening cardiac arrest if the patient is judged to be at risk
Virtually all these drugs require careful monitoring for maximum effectiveness and the lowest possible risk of side effects. Each can be highly effective in controlling abnormal heart rhythms when chosen carefully, taken according to instructions and monitored for effectiveness. Side effects will occur in some individuals so it is important to be on the alert for them. Since side effects may occur early in use, some patients may be placed on antiarrhythmic medications in the hospital where they can be closely monitored.
Side effects range from “nuisance” discomforts that are not dangerous to more serious problems for which your doctor will invariably be vigilant.
Worsening of the arrhythmias already present or production of new ones (called proarrhythmia; that is, promoting rather than eliminating arrhythmia- a serious problem).
Causing problems with the function of other organs (lung, liver, kidney, thyroid).
Just as you should report perceived side effects to your doctor for evaluation, also be sure to report the disappearance of symptoms, which the physician may consider evidence of benefit from the drug.
Remember, nothing can substitute for your doctor’s advice and information, since it will be tailored for your individual needs. Be sure to ask your doctor about important facts you should know if you are on any of these medications.
Generic or chemical name
Dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, headeache, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, belly pain, fever, ringing in the ears, rash, loss of appetite
Many known drug interactions.
More warfarin effect. More digoxin effect.
Can irate liver.
Easy bruising (low blood platelets).
Fever, sore throat, joint pains, rash, confusion, depression, dizziness, lightheadedness, insomnia, loss of appetite
Can reduce white blood cells, causing fever and sore throat. If these occur, notify doctor immediately.
In-hospital care usually required before therapy is started.
Combination drug treatment
Don’t be surprised if your physician places you on more than one medication to control your arrhythmia, since it may be necessary for improved effectiveness. In some cases, it may permit your physician to reduce the dosage of individual drugs, thereby reducing troublesome side effects.