Prescribing amiodarone: An evidence-based review of clinical indications

Patricia Vassallo, Richard G. Trohman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

338 Scopus citations


Context: Although amiodarone is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration only for refractory ventricular arrhythmias, it is one of the most frequently prescribed antiarrhythmic medications in the United States. Objective: To evaluate and synthesize evidence regarding optimal use of amiodarone for various arrhythmias. Evidence Acquisition: Systematic search of MEDLINE to identify peer-reviewed clinical trials, randomized controlled trials, meta-analyses, and other studies with clinical pertinence. The search was limited to human-participant, English-language reports published between 1970 and 2007. Amiodarone was searched using the terms adverse effects, atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, congestive heart failure, electrical storm, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, surgery, ventricular arrhythmia, ventricular fibrillation, and Wolff-Parkinson-White. Bibliographies of identified articles and guidelines from official societies were reviewed for additional references. Ninety-two identified studies met inclusion criteria and were included in the review. Evidence Synthesis: Amiodarone may have clinical value in patients with left ventricular dysfunction and heart failure as first-line treatment for atrial fibrillation, though other agents are available. Amiodarone is useful in acute management of sustained ventricular tachyarrythmias, regardless of hemodynamic stability. The only role for prophylactic amiodarone is in the perioperative period of cardiac surgery. Amiodarone may be effective as an adjunct to implantable cardioverter- defibrillator therapy to reduce number of shocks. However, amiodarone has a number of serious adverse effects, including corneal microdeposits (>90%), optic neuropathy/neuritis (≤1%-2%), blue-gray skin discoloration (4%-9%), photosensitivity (25%-75%), hypothyroidism (6%), hyperthyroidism (0.9%-2%), pulmonary toxicity (1%-17%), peripheral neuropathy (0.3% annually), and hepatotoxicity (elevated enzyme levels, 15%-30%; hepatitis and cirrhosis, <3% [0.6% annually]). Conclusion: Amiodarone should be used with close follow-up in patients who are likely to derive the most benefit, namely those with atrial fibrillation and left ventricular dysfunction, those with acute sustained ventricular arrhythmias, those about to undergo cardiac surgery, and those with implantable cardioverter-defibrillators and symptomatic shocks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1312-1322
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Medical Association
Issue number11
StatePublished - Sep 19 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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