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Antiarrhythmic drug therapy during cardiopulmonary resuscitation: should we use it?

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: The optimal antiarrhythmic drug therapy (amiodarone or lidocaine) in the treatment of ventricular fibrillation/pulseless ventricular tachycardia (VF/pVT) cardiac arrest that is refractory to defibrillation is uncertain. This article reviews the evidence for and against these drugs, alternatives treatments for refractory VF/pVT and aims to define the role of antiarrhythmic drugs during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

RECENT FINDINGS: A large randomized controlled trial that compared amiodarone, lidocaine and saline 0.9% sodium chloride for the treatment of refractory VF/pVT out-of-hospital cardiac arrest reported no difference in survival to hospital discharge or neurological outcome. In patients with witnessed arrest, survival was improved with antiarrhythmic drugs compared to saline.

SUMMARY: The benefit of antiarrhythmic drugs appears to be for those patients in whom initial early CPR and defibrillation attempts fail and the antiarrhythmic drug is given early. There does not appear to be any clear survival benefit for any one particular drug and other factors such as availability and cost should be considered when deciding which drug to use. Furthermore, other interventions (e.g. percutaneous coronary intervention and extra-corporeal CPR) may provide additional survival benefit when defibrillation attempts and antiarrhythmic drugs are not effective.

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