Background: Postoperative supraventricular tachyarrhythmia is a common complication of surgery. Because chemical cardioversion is often ineffective, ventricular rate control remains a principal goal of therapy. The authors hypothesized that patients with supraventricular tachyarrhythmia after major noncardiac surgery who receive intravenous β-adrenergic blockade for ventricular rate control would experience conversion to sinus rhythm at a rate that differs from those receiving intravenous calcium channel blockade. Methods: The rate of conversion to sinus rhythm at 2 and 12 h after treatment was examined in 64 cases of postoperative supraventricular tachyarrhythmia. After adenosine-administration, patients who remained in supraventricular tachyarrhythmia were prospectively randomized to receive either intravenous diltiazem or intravenous esmolol for ventricular rate control (unblinded). Loading and infusion rates were adjusted to achieve equivalent degrees of ventricular rate control. Results: Patients were similar with regard to age and Apache III score. Most patients in both groups had atrial fibrillation (esmolol, 79%; diltiazem, 81%), and none experienced stable conversion with adenosine. Patients randomized to receive esmolol experienced a 59% rate of conversion to sinus rhythm within 2 h of treatment, compared with only 33% for patients randomized to receive diltiazem (intention to treat, P = 0.049; odds ratio, 2.9; 95% confidence interval, 1.046 to 7.8). After 12 h of therapy, the number of patients converting to sinus rhythm increased in both groups (esmolol, 85%; diltiazem, 62%), and the rates of conversion no longer differed significantly. Ventricular rates when supraventricular tachyarrhythmia began and after 2 and 12 h of rate control therapy were similar in the two treatment groups. The in-hospital mortality rate and length of stay in the intensive care unit were not significantly influenced by treatment group. Conclusions: Among adenosine-resistant patients in the intensive care unit with atrial fibrillation after noncardiac surgery, intravenous esmolol produced a more rapid (2-h) conversion to sinus rhythm than did intravenous diltiazem.
- Atrial fibrillation
- Calcium channel blockade
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine