The efficacy of sotalol in treating acute atrial fibrillation and flutter after open heart surgery was compared with that of a digoxin/disopyramide combination. Forty adult patients with postoperative atrial arrhythmias were randomised into either group 1 (sotalol 1 mg/kg bolus intravenously plus 0.2 mg/kg intravenously over 12 hours) or group 2 (digoxin 0.75 mg intravenously, then two hours later disopyramide 2 mg/kg intravenous bolus and 0.4 mg/kg/h intravenously for 10 hours). In each group, 17 out of 20 patients reverted to sinus or junctional rhythm within 12 hours. The time to reversion in group 1 was significantly shorter than in group 2. Systolic blood pressure fell by greater than or equal to 20 mm Hg or to less than or equal to 90 mm Hg during drug administration in 17 out of 20 patients in group 1 (sotalol withdrawn in two) and in none out of 20 in group 2. Two patients in group 1 developed transient bradycardia (sotalol withdrawn in one). None of 17 patients in group 1 and two of 17 in group 2 relapsed temporarily into atrial fibrillation during the 12 hours of intravenous treatment. On continued oral treatment, one late relapse occurred in group 1 and five in group 2, and five patients in group 2 had disopyramide withdrawn because of anticholinergic side effects (acute urinary retention in four). Sotalol was as effective as the digoxin/disopyramide combination and acted significantly faster. Sensitivity to beta blockade in these patients may be related to high plasma catecholamine concentrations known to occur after cardiopulmonary bypass.
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