How Does Amiodarone Work in Treating Life-threatening Heart Rhythm Disorders?

Amiodarone for Treating Life-threatening Heart Rhythm Disorders

Heart rhythm disorders can be life threatening and affects ventricles. Each heart is divided in two parts: auricles and ventricles. Ventricle is the lower half of the heart that pushes oxygenated blood to the different parts of the body. Amiodarone is particularly found to be useful in treating ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia disorders.

The use of Amiodarone is restricted to treating only the life threatening heart rhythm disorders. The initial dosage of Amiodarone is always given in the hospital under the supervision of the experts and its response is recorded via ECG or electrocardiograph .

The use of Amiodarone is restricted to treating of life threatening heart rhythm disorders. It is not recommended for people who have some serious heart illness, allergy to iodine or amiodarone, or people with slow rate of heart beat. Amiodarone is known to have serious ill effects on liver and lungs. Thus, it is strongly recommended to see your doctor in case of any symptoms of side effects including chest pain, dark urine, upper stomach pain, jaundice, trouble breathing, coughing with blood, .

The use of Amiodarone is always recommended under the supervision of a doctor. Its usage is potentially harmful in case of pregnant women as it can affect the development of baby inside the womb.

Usually, a person taking Amiodarone requires blood test to ensure that it is not causing any side effects on the body. Its usage can also affect functioning of liver and thyroid, thus their monitoring is also required. Make sure that you do not miss any appointments with your doctor.

How Does Amiodarone Work?

Amiodarone helps in suppressing and preventing irregular heartbeats or abnormalities in rhythmic heartbeats. The researchers are still trying to find the exact way it works but all we know is that it affects receptors that carry impulses. As it regulates the heart rhythm, it is also known as anti-arrhythmic.

How Effective is Amiodarone in Treating Life-threatening Heart Rhythm Disorders?

How Effective is Amiodarone in Treating Life-threatening Heart Rhythm Disorders?

Amiodarone is used as the last measure for the treatment of life-threatening recurrent hemodynamically unstable ventricular and recurrent ventricular fibrillation after other medications fail to show any response.

  • The intake of Amiodarone can make your body sensitive to sunlight. Thus, you must avoid exposure to sunlight as much as possible. Whenever you go out, try to put proper sunglasses and hat. Also make sure that your clothes do not leave your body parts exposed to sunlight.
  • If you are taking the dosage of Amiodarone for a long time, you can experience blue-gray discoloration of skin that gets exposed to sunlight. People with fair complexion or those who are taking higher dosage are more at risk of skin discoloration.
  • The intake of grapefruit juice and its products must be avoided.
  • Stick to the exact dosage of Amiodarone as recommended by the doctor. In case you experience any side-effects, you must inform your doctor immediately. Higher dosage of Amiodarone can lead to various side effects. Thus, minimum dosage is recommended by doctors.
  • Patients who are using Amiodarone are not eligible for laser eye surgery.

The response and effectiveness of Amiodarone is excellent. Amiodarone takes a while to get absorbed in the body. It takes about 3-7 hours for the concentration to reach to its maximum level when taken orally. Some effects can only be seen only after a continuous dosage of Amiodarone for one to three weeks. In some cases, a patient may take up to 3 days to show the effects of the dosage.

  • You will experience stable and persistent effects, once you have continued the dosage for several weeks.
  • Researchers and experts are still trying to find out the optimum concentration of Amiodarone that should be given to the patient. Presently, the dosage of 1 to 2.5 mg/L is usually recommended by the doctors and is considered to be ideal. .
  • Any concentration lower than 1 mg/L is not considered enough to show any significant effect on the body. Also, concentrations above 2.5 mg/L are not recommended as they may lead to various types of side effects and toxicity in body.

Safety and Side Effects of Amiodarone in Treating Life-threatening Heart Rhythm Disorders

Amiodarone is only used in life threatening situations so the doctors make sure that the benefits outweigh the side effects. The use of Amiodarone is known to produce side-effects in all individuals. The common side-effects in individuals who are in the age group of 18- 60 years and are not taking any other medication are as mentioned:

  • Poor coordination and gait, vomiting, tiredness, tremor and involuntary movements, constipation, nausea, loss of weight, abnormalities in thyroid function tests, elevation of liver enzymes, difficulty in vision, peripheral neuropathy, hyper or hypothyroidism. The higher dosage of Amiodarone can lead to other side effects including liver-enzyme elevations, pulmonary fibrosis, facial pigmentation, peripheral neuropathy, corneal deposits, gastrointestinal and problems with central nervous system.
  • Amiodarone can also lead to some serious side effects that can be even life-threatening and difficult to manage. Also, there are no significant evidences to prove that Amiodarone can actually increase the survival rate.
  • It can sometimes lead to significant drop in the heart rate that can even lead to heart block preventing the normal transmission of impulses. In a few cases, the effects of the Amiodarone can be almost impossible to treat or reverse.
  • The severe side-effects that can be caused by the use of Amiodarone include pneumonitis (a type of lung inflammation affecting the alveoli). In a study conducted by a group of experts, about 10-17% of people showed signs of pulmonary toxicity that were given 400 mg/day amiodarone.
  • The response of the body to the dosage of Amiodarone can vary significantly from person to person. Thus, the perfect dosage of every person depends on the requirements of the body. Doctors conduct various tests involving blood sugar monitoring to determine the daily maintenance dosage for an individual.
  • The side effects caused by the intake of Amiodarone can persist even after you have stopped taking the dosage. It can take several weeks or even months for the symptoms to go away completely.

Amiodarone is can show up some signs of allergy including lips, hives; swelling of the patient’s face, throat or tongue, difficulty in breathing etc. The side-effects of Amiodarone can persist for some days even after you discontinue taking its dosage. However, you must always keep your doctor informed about the ill effects despite they occur months after the stopping the dosage. The common side-effects are as follows:

  • Chest pain, wheezing, coughing up blood, cough etc…
  • Irregular pattern of heart beat that degrades with time.
  • Feeling light-headed as if you might faint.
  • Difficulty or loss of vision, headache or feel like vomiting.
  • Problems in live such as itching, upper abdominal pain, nausea, loss of hunger, tired feeling, dark urine, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes) etc…
  • Overactive thyroid with symptoms like loss or weight, hair getting thin, fluctuation is body temperature, sweating too much, abnormal menstrual periods etc…
  • Underactive thyroid with symptoms such as feeling exhausted, drying of skin, pain in joints, stiffness, pain in muscles, hoarse voice, fluctuation in body temperature, and increase in body weight.

Some other ill-effects of amiodarone are as follows:

  • Problems in vision, dizziness, noticing halos surrounding light.
  • Lacking energy in body, unable to coordinate body parts
  • nausea, constipation; vomiting,
  • tingling or numbness in body
  • tremors;
  • Liver not functioning properly.


Amiodarone is not recommended as the first treatment option because of the extreme side-effects. However, it can be used if a person does not respond to other treatment options in life threatening heart rhythm disorders. Also, there are no evidences to prove that it can increase the life expectancy. Thus, it is strongly recommended to try all other treatment options before using Amiodarone.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 27, 2017

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