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Beta-Blockers for Atrial Fibrillation

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Beta-Blockers for Atrial Fibrillation
Beta-blockers are useful in the treatment of atrial fibrillation. Photo Credit pills image by Dariusz Urbanczyk from Fotolia.com

Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heartbeat, or arrhythmia, that is characterized by the rapid beating of the upper two chambers of the heart, or the atria. Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia and can lead to heart failure, heart attacks and blood clots. Most patients will experience chest pain and palpitations if they are suffering from this condition. Treatment includes using various medications to control the heart rate, electrical stimulation to lower the heartbeat, and anticoagulation to lower the risk for blood clots. Beta-blocker drugs are an integral part of the treatment regimen, according to the journal "American Family Physician."


Esmolol is a beta-blocker that has been used to control arrhythmias and rapid heart rates, states MayoClinic.com. The drug works by affecting the nerve impulses within the heart. This interference causes the heart to beat slower and also reduces blood pressure. The slowing of the heartbeat relieves the atrial fibrillation and the reduction in blood pressure helps prevent complications such as a heart attack. Esmolol is only available as a prescription drug and is commonly used in hospitals and emergency rooms.

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Propranolol can be used to treat high blood pressure, abnormally fast heart rhythms and heart disease, reports MedlinePlus, a National Institutes of Health website. The drug also helps treat chest pain and migraine headaches. Propranolol interacts with specific receptors on the heart and blood vessels called beta-receptors. By combining with these receptors, propranolol relaxes blood vessels and slows heart rate. This allows blood flow to improve greatly and reduces blood pressure. Side effects of this drug include dizziness, fatigue, vomiting, rash, insomnia, diarrhea and upset stomach. In order to avoid these side effects, patients should regularly take propranolol at the scheduled times and always take the prescribed amount of the drug.


Carvedilol is a beta-blocker that may be used to treat atrial fibrillation, according to Drugs.com. As with all beta-blockers, carvedilol functions by binding to beta-receptors in the patient’s body. By binding to these receptors, the drug prevents hormones from reaching the receptors. Without the hormone-receptor interaction, the heart begins to slow down and become stable. Carvedilol is particularly useful in patients who have just suffered a heart attack. Side effects of carvedilol include stroke, depression, arthritis, gout and a cough.

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author image Joseph Pritchard
Joseph Pritchard graduated from Our Lady of Fatima Medical School with a medical degree. He has spent almost a decade studying humanity. Dr. Pritchard writes as a San Francisco biology expert for a prominent website and thoroughly enjoys sharing the knowledge he has accumulated.
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