What Is Intravenous Amiodarone?

Jennifer Long

Intravenous amiodarone is a medication used in life-threatening emergencies and in the maintenance and suppression of heart arrhythmia. It is classified as an anti-arrhythmic, which means it works to stop abnormal or erratic heart rhythm. Although it is available in oral form, hospitals and emergency care staff prefer to use the intravenous (IV) form for the initial treatment.

Intravenous amiodarone can be administered through an IV to stop abnormal heart rhythms.
Intravenous amiodarone can be administered through an IV to stop abnormal heart rhythms.

In December 1985, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved intravenous amiodarone. As an anti-arrhytmic medication, it works by altering electrical disturbances in the heart that are causing an irregular heart beat. The IV form allows the medication to be administered through an IV line during emergencies. Dangerous heart problems that amidarone treats include atrial flutter, ventricular fibrillation, and atrial fibrillation.

Certain medications can have negative drug interactions with amiodarone.
Certain medications can have negative drug interactions with amiodarone.

There are several different types of medications that can cause intravenous amiodarone drug interactions. Amiodarone can interact with beta blockers and calcium channel blockers. Mixed with these medications, amiodarone can cause the heart rate to slow to a dangerously low level or block electrical impulses. When digoxin and amiodarone are taken together, digoxin levels in the blood increase. Doctors often decrease the dosage of digoxin to about 50 percent lower to avoid possible interactions.

Common side effects of intravenous amiodarone include fever, bradycardia, hypotension, and nausea. Abnormal kidney function, diarrhea, vomiting, and swelling of the lungs are also possible. Dizziness, fatigue, and weakness are commonly experienced. If any of these symptoms are experienced, medical staff should be notified. Additionally, if the patient experiences signs of an allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing or hives, immediate attention is required.

Risks associated with intravenous amiodarone are potentially dangerous. Amiodarone can cause hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, which are both thyroid malfunctions. It can also worsen conditions such as liver disease and a lung disorder like asthma. Doctors must be told about all medications and conditions that currently exist. If the patient has had a history of heart abnormalities, this information must also be included.

Doctors will prescribe intravenous amiodarone to be administered over the course of several days in a hospital. Close monitoring of the patient's heart function and side effects is crucial. After the first 24 hours on the medication, dosages will be adjusted and decreased slowly. Although amiodarone is generally used during emergency cardiac problems, an oral maintenance dose can be prescribed to replace the IV infusion, particularly if the patient will be hospitalized for a prolonged period.

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