Medications For Cardiac Arrhythmias (Heart Rhythm Disturbances)

Medications For Cardiac ArrhythmiasMedications for Cardiac Arrhythmias (Heart Rhythm Disturbances), such as Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs), Atrial Fibrillation and Tachycardia (rapid heart rate) may be prescribed by your physician.

These medications are called antiarrhythmic drugs, and as a general rule can produce side effects that outweigh their potential benefits.

For this reason, doctors may be reluctant to prescribe them, unless the arrhythmia being treated is very disruptive to a patient’s life, and no other alternatives are available.

Medications For Cardiac Arrhythmias-RxTreatment goals of medications for cardiac arrhythmias:

 ➡ Prevent blood clots from forming to reduce stroke risk, especially for people with Atrial Fibrillation

  ➡ Control your heart rate within a relatively normal range

 ➡ Restore a normal heart rhythm, if possible

 ➡ Treat the heart disease/condition that may be causing arrhythmia

 ➡ Reduce other risk factors for heart disease and stroke

Cardiac Arrhythmias, such as Tachycardia (rapid heartbeats with accompanying symptoms) and premature beats may be treated with a variety of drugs. They may be given intravenously in an emergency situation or orally for long-term treatment. 

  • In patients with Atrial Fibrillation, a blood thinner (anticoagulant or antiplatelet) is usually added to reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke. 
  • When Tachycardia (abnormally fast heartbeats) or premature beats are frequent, the effectiveness of antiarrhythmic drugs may be determined by performing an Electrocardiogram or by using a Holter Monitor for 24 hours, which can be done at home.

 The disadvantages of medications for cardiac arrhythmias are:

  • The drugs must be taken daily and indefinitely.
  • The risk of side effects.

Medications For Cardiac Arrhythmias-riskWhile there are risks of side effects for all medications, those associated with antiarrhythmic drugs can be very hard to manage.

  • They include a more frequent occurrence of pre-existing arrhythmias or the appearance of new arrhythmias as bad as or worse than those being treated.

Calcium Channel Blockers

Calcium Channel Blockers (also known as “calcium antagonists,”) work by interrupting the movement of calcium into heart and blood vessel tissue. They are also used in the treatment of Hypertension (high blood pressure) and Angina (chest pain).


  • Beta-blockers decrease the heart rate and cardiac output, which lowers blood pressure by blocking the effects of adrenaline.
  • They’re also used for cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms) and in treating Angina Pectoris (severe chest pain).


  • Anticoagulants (blood thinners) work by making it harder for the blood to clot, or coagulate. They are not designed to dissolve existing blood clots.
  • They prevent new clots from forming or existing clots from getting larger.

Because a common type of stroke is caused by a blood clot obstructing blood flow to the brain, anticoagulants are often prescribed for people with certain conditions to prevent the first stroke, or to prevent the recurrence, if the patient has already had a stroke.

  • Anticoagulants are also given to certain people at risk for forming blood clots, such as those with artificial heart valves or with Atrial Fibrillation

medication precautionsTaking Medications

  • Take all medications exactly as prescribed.
  • Never stop taking any prescription medication without first consulting your physician.
  • If you have any side effects, tell your doctor about them.
  • Tell your doctor about all your other drugs and supplements, including over-the-counter medications and vitamins.
  • All medications have side effects, including drugs to treat arrhythmias. Most of the side effects aren’t serious and disappear when the dose is changed or the medication is stopped.

Keep learning about heart disease in its many forms. Your heart is your life, and you are worth it.


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