Thumbnail image of: My Medicines: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Nodes Responsible for Cardiac Rhythm: Illustration

Antiarrhythmic Medicines

What is antiarrhythmic medicine?

Antiarrhythmic medicine is used to treat a fast or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). A fast or irregular heartbeat can make it harder for the heart to pump enough blood to the rest of your body. Antiarrhythmic medicines may be used to treat:

  • Fibrillation, when the heart doesn’t pump in a coordinated way
  • Fast heartbeat or rhythm, which doesn’t allow the heart to fully fill with blood
  • Irregular heartbeats, when the heart may not fully fill with blood

This medicine may be used for other types of arrhythmias as determined by your healthcare provider. The medicine can help you have a normal heartbeat.

Some abnormal heart rhythms cannot be treated with drugs alone. You may need a pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). Pacemakers and ICDs are small battery-powered devices that help your heart beat in a normal rhythm. Medicines are sometimes used along with pacemakers and ICDs to treat fast heart rhythms.

Which medicine or treatment is best for you depends on your condition and health.

How does it work?

An electrical signal in your heart starts each heartbeat, causing the heart muscle to squeeze (contract). Normally, this signal starts in the upper right chamber of the heart (the right atrium) at a place called the sinus node. The signal then follows normal pathways to the upper left atrium and to the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles). Sometimes the electrical signal does not follow the normal pathways or the nerve cells that make the electrical signals don’t work right. This may make the heart beat faster or more slowly than normal, or it may skip beats.

Antiarrhythmic medicines change the movement of chemicals into and out of cells in the heart. This affects the way electrical signals move through the heart and can help your heart have a normal rhythm.

What should I watch out for while taking this medicine?

  • Follow the directions that come with your medicine, including information about food or alcohol. Make sure you know how and when to take your medicine. Do not take more or less than you are supposed to take.
  • Many medicines have side effects. A side effect is a symptom or problem that is caused by the medicine. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist what side effects the medicine may cause and what you should do if you have side effects.
  • Try to get all of your prescriptions filled at the same place. Your pharmacist can help make sure that all of your medicines are safe to take together.
  • Keep a list of your medicines with you. List all of the prescription medicines, nonprescription medicines, supplements, natural remedies, and vitamins that you take. Tell all healthcare providers who treat you about all of the products you are taking.

If you have any questions, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for more information. Be sure to keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-02-02
Last reviewed: 2014-01-25
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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