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What Is Dofetilide Used For?

A healthcare provider may recommend dofetilide to adults who have certain types of irregular heartbeats. By affecting certain electrical signals in the heart, this medicine can help treat atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter. These uses of dofetilide help to return the heart to a regular rhythm and maintain it. There are also off-label uses, such as treating other types of irregular heart rhythms.

An Overview of Uses for Dofetilide

Dofetilide (Tikosyn®) is a prescription medication that belongs to a class of drugs known as antiarrhythmics. It is approved for the treatment of certain types of irregular heartbeats, medically known as heart arrhythmias. Specifically, dofetilide is approved to treat atrial fibrillation (sometimes simply called "a-fib") and atrial flutter.
 

Dofetilide Use for an Irregular Heartbeat

Normally, an electrical signal is sent from a special bundle of neurons in the heart called the sinoatrial node (the SA node) to the top two chambers of the heart (the atria). This signal tells the heart to contract. In atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter, the electrical signal is abnormal. As a result, the atria contract quickly and irregularly.
 
The electrical signal also passes through the atrioventricular (AV) node and then through the lower two chambers in the heart (the ventricles). In atrial fibrillation, the electrical signal to the ventricles is irregular or incomplete, so the contractions of the atria and the ventricles are no longer synchronized. This also causes the ventricles to beat more rapidly and irregularly.
 
Atrial flutter is similar to atrial fibrillation. However, in atrial flutter, the ventricles beat too quickly, but in a regular manner.
 
The symptoms of atrial fibrillation can vary. Some people may not have any symptoms at all, some have symptoms all the time, and still others have symptoms that come and go. When symptoms do occur, they commonly include:
 
  • Heart palpitations (feeling like your heart is racing or pounding)
  • Feeling like your heart is fluttering
  • An irregular or fast heartbeat
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness or discomfort in your chest.
 
(Click Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation for more information.)
 
While atrial fibrillation is rarely cured, it can often be managed with proper treatment. This may include a combination of lifestyle changes, medications, and medical procedures. The type of treatment your healthcare provider recommends will depend on a variety of factors, including:
 
  • How long you have had a-fib
  • Whether your a-fib occurs occasionally or is chronic
  • The severity of your symptoms
  • The underlying cause.
 
People who don't have any symptoms may not need any treatment at all. People with symptomatic a-fib may be given medications to slow the heartbeat or to return the heart to a regular rhythm (known as a normal sinus rhythm).
 
A procedure known as electrical cardioversion may also be used. Electrical cardioversion uses an electrical shock to reset the heart rhythm and return it to a normal rhythm. Also, a variety of different surgeries or procedures, such as cardioablation, are used in some cases to interfere with the abnormal electrical signals.
 
Medications are used to either normalize the rhythm ("rhythm control") or to just slow down the rate ("rate control"). In general, drugs like dofetilide that are used to correct the rhythm generally carry more serious risks than drugs used to just slow down the rate.
 
Because a-fib increases the risk for having a blood clot or stroke, people with a-fib are also often given blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin®, Jantoven®) or dabigatran (Pradaxa®), to help prevent a blood clot or stroke from occurring.
 
(Click Atrial Fibrillation Treatment for more information on treatment options for this condition. You can find out more about potential complications by clicking Atrial Fibrillation Complications.)
 
Dofetilide is used to treat highly symptomatic a-fib and atrial flutter. It may be used to convert the heart to a normal sinus rhythm or to maintain a normal rhythm in people who have already been converted. Although many people experience a recurrence of atrial fibrillation or flutter, dofetilide can help the heart beat regularly for a longer period of time.
 
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Dofetilide Medication Information

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