The use of antiarrhythmics in advanced cardiac life support

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16 Scopus citations


Antiarrhythmic agents have been used to treat malignant ventricular arrhythmias in the setting of acute myocardial ischemia with proven efficacy for many years. Thus, it has been presumed that these agents would be efficacious for the treatment of cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, hard data supporting this contention are unavailable to date. Furthermore, some of the experimental data in this area are conflicting, especially regarding the relative effects of lidocaine and bretylium. Thus, little definitive can be said based on experimental information. In two randomized patient studies, lidocaine and bretylium performed comparably. Because of the frequent use of lidocaine and thus the familiarity of most health care professionals with its use, it makes educational sense to utilize lidocaine as the antiarrhythmic drug of first choice during the cardiac arrest sequence. Recent data suggesting that amiodarone may be efficacious in patients with recurrent arrhythmias require additional confirmation. Although antiarrhythmic agents have been shown to be effective in the treatment of malignant arrhythmias in patients with acute myocardial infarction, their use prophylactically for patients with suspected infarction (advocated in the past) has recently undergone reevaluation. It is now clear that despite a reduction in ventricular fibrillation, overall mortality may be increased. This may be because the prophylactic treatment of patients with suspected infarction includes a large number of patients not at risk for ventricular fibrillation who still may be at risk for drug toxicity. Thus, prophylactic administration of lidocaine to all patients with suspected acute myocardial infarction can no longer be recommended. There are inadequate data upon which to base a recommendation concerning the use of lidocaine in patients receiving thrombolytic therapy. The group most likely to benefit from lidocaine are patients with ST segment elevation who present early after the onset of acute myocardial infarction. The use of lidocaine in this group requires additional study. At present, despite enthusiasm for the prophylactic use of magnesium for the treatment of arrhythmias, data are inadequate to support its routine administration. However, given the importance of magnesium and potassium levels in the genesis of malignant arrhythmias, their levels in plasma should be assessed, and abnormalities should be promptly corrected. The potential uses of antiarrhythmic agents during advanced cardiac life support span a remarkably diverse number of applications. For the purpose of this review, only the use of these agents during CPR and during the early hours of acute or suspected acute myocardial infarction will be considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-316
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of emergency medicine
Issue number2 PART 2
StatePublished - Feb 1993


  • antiarrhythmic agents
  • cardiac arrest
  • myocardial infarction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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