If your doctor prescribes amiodarone, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed. This drug can be complex to understand, and the information on its uses, interactions, mechanism of action, dosage, and side effects can be overwhelming. But before you start worrying too much about taking this medication properly – take comfort: we’ve got you covered.
This blog post will provide an overview of all aspects of amiodarone use and answer any potential questions or concerns. So let’s dive right in today and get informed on everything there is to know about this potent anti-arrhythmic drug.
Table of Contents
What is Amiodarone?
Amiodarone is a potent anti-arrhythmic medication used to treat and prevent irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias. It works by slowing the heart rate and restoring a regular rhythm to the heartbeat, allowing for better blood flow around the body. Amiodarone is a class III anti-arrhythmic medication that blocks specific electrical signals in the heart.
Uses of Amiodarone
Amiodarone is used to treat and prevent a variety of abnormal heart rhythms, including ventricular tachycardia (VT), atrial fibrillation (AFib), and atrial flutter (AFL). It also treats supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) and ventricular fibrillation (VF). Additionally, it has been approved for use in emergencies such as cardiac arrest.
Interactions of Amiodarone
Amiodarone may interact with other medications, including antibiotics and drugs that slow the heart rate. It is essential to inform your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications or supplements, as this could increase the risk of side effects.
Mechanism of Action
Amiodarone works by blocking specific electrical signals in the heart muscle cells. This helps to slow the heart rate and restore a regular rhythm to the heartbeat. Additionally, amiodarone directly affects sodium channels in the heart muscle cells, which helps stabilize them and reduce abnormal electrical activity.
Dosage of Amiodarone
Amiodarone is available in both oral tablets and intravenous (IV) injections. The recommended dosage of oral amiodarone tablets varies depending on the type and severity of arrhythmia being treated and other factors such as age and weight. For intravenous administration, the dose is typically 100-200mg over 20 minutes.
CNS: Symptoms include malaise, fatigue, dizziness, tremors, ataxia, and paresthesias, and poor coordination.
CV: Arrhythmias, congestive heart failure (CHF), cardiac arrest, and hypotension.
EENT: Corneal microdeposits causing photophobia, dry eyes, halos and blurred vision, and permanent blindness.
Endocrine: Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
GI: Nausea, vomiting, anorexia, constipation, and abnormal liver function tests (LFTs) may indicate hepatotoxicity.
Respiratory: Pneumonitis or infiltrates may be present, along with shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing.
Other: Photosensitivity and angioedema are also among the common side effects.
Amiodarone Nursing Considerations ( Teaching Points)
CLINICAL ALERT! Take extra care when using amrinone, as its name has been changed to inamrinone. There is a risk of confusion between the two names.
Nurses should provide the patient with comprehensive education regarding the proper use of amiodarone, including:
- Instruct patients to take amiodarone precisely as prescribed and to not take larger doses or longer duration than prescribed.
- Instruct patients that amiodarone may cause dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting and be cautious when rising from a sitting or lying position.
- Advise patients to notify the healthcare team if they experience any unusual signs or symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, arrhythmias, joint pain, or swelling.
- Instruct patients to promptly report any vision or hearing changes.
- Advise them that amiodarone may cause photosensitivity, so they should limit their sun exposure and wear protective clothing and sunscreen when outdoors.
- Instruct patients to report any new or worsening symptoms of lung or breathing problems, such as coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath, to their healthcare team.
- Instruct patients to report any signs of liver problems, such as yellowing of the eyes or skin, dark-colored urine, or loss of appetite.
- Advise them to use caution when taking over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements, as these may interact with amiodarone.
- Inform patients that regular lab tests will be required to monitor their progress while taking amiodarone.
- Encourage patients to discuss the risks and benefits of amiodarone with their healthcare team before starting therapy.
- Remind patients to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen as their healthcare provider prescribes.
Amiodarone Nursing Implications (Assessment & Drug Effects)
Amiodarone nursing implications involve mainly the following points:
- Carefully monitor blood pressure during infusion, and slow the drug flow rate if significant hypotension develops. Bradycardia should be treated by restricting the intake or stopping it altogether, as needed. Monitor heart rate, rhythm, and BP until the patient’s response to amiodarone has stabilized; report any symptomatic bradycardia immediately. As amiodarone has an unusually long half-life, sustained monitoring is essential.
- Be aware of potential adverse effects, especially conduction disturbances and increased arrhythmia in those receiving concurrent antiarrhythmic therapy (reduce the dosage of the previous drug by around 30–50% a few days after introducing amiodarone). Also, look for drug-induced hypo or hyperthyroidism (see Appendix F) and pulmonary toxicity (progressive dyspnea, fatigue, cough, pleuritic pain, fever), which should be monitored continuously.
- Carry out baseline and periodic assessments of liver, lung, thyroid, neurologic, and GI function. Also, look out for abnormal thyroid function tests, even if there is no evidence of thyroid impairment. Monitor AST and ALT levels; if they remain elevated or are more than two to three times the regular baseline readings, reduce dosage or discontinue amiodarone promptly to prevent hepatotoxicity.
- Auscultate the chest periodically or when the patient complains of respiratory symptoms, and check for reduced breath sounds, rales, and pleuritic friction rub; observe breathing pattern. Drug-induced pulmonary issues must be distinguishable from CHF or pneumonia – keep the physician informed.
- Be prepared for possible CNS symptoms to develop within a week of beginning amiodarone therapy. Proximal muscle weakness, intensified by tremors, is a common side effect that presents a great hazard to the patient’s mobility. Assess the severity of symptoms and consider supervision when ambulating.
Amiodarone is a powerful anti-arrhythmic drug that treats and prevents abnormal heart rhythms. It blocks specific electrical signals in the heart muscle cells, resulting in a more regular heartbeat. While amiodarone can be very effective, it also carries some risks and side effects that healthcare providers should discuss and monitor. Therefore, patients should consult with their doctor before taking amiodarone to ensure the benefits outweigh the risks.
Nursing considerations for amiodarone include carefully monitoring the patient’s heart rate, rhythm and blood pressure. Nurses should also watch for signs of drug-induced hypo or hyperthyroidism and pulmonary toxicity. In addition, nurses should provide patients with comprehensive education regarding the proper use of amiodarone, including instructions on how to recognize any adverse effects that may occur.
Mrs. Marie Brown has been a registered nurse for over 25 years. She began her nursing career at a Level I Trauma Center in downtown Chicago, Illinois. There she worked in the Emergency Department and on the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. After several years, she moved to the Midwest and continued her nursing career in a critical care setting. For the last 10 years of her nursing career, Mrs. Brown worked as a flight nurse with an air ambulance service. During this time, she cared for patients throughout the United States.