BACKGROUND: Atrial arrhythmias occur commonly after cardiac surgery and are a cause of significant morbidity and increased hospital costs, yet there is no well-studied treatment strategy to deal with them expeditiously. The purpose of this study was to determine the efficacy and safety of ibutilide fumarate, an approved drug for the rapid conversion of atrial fibrillation and flutter, in patients after cardiac surgery.
METHODS AND RESULTS: Patients with atrial fibrillation or flutter occurring 1 to 7 days after surgery and lasting 1 hour to 3 days were randomized to receive two 10-minute blinded infusions of placebo or 0.25, 0.5, or 1.0 mg of ibutilide fumarate. Treatment was considered successful if sinus rhythm was restored for any period of time by hour 1.5. A total of 302 patients were randomized, 201 with fibrillation and 101 with flutter. Treatment with ibutilide resulted in significantly higher conversion rates than placebo, and efficacy was dose related (placebo 15%; ibutilide 0.25 mg 40%, 0.5 mg 47%, and 1.0 mg 57%). Conversion rates at all doses were higher for atrial flutter than for atrial fibrillation. Mean time to conversion decreased as the dose was increased. Polymorphic ventricular tachycardia was the most serious adverse effect and occurred in 1.8% of the ibutilide-treated patients compared with 1.2% of patients who received placebo.
CONCLUSIONS: Ibutilide is a useful and safe treatment alternative for the atrial arrhythmias that occur after cardiac surgery.
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