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Control of ventricular rate in atrial fibrillation: Nonpharmacologic therapy

Leonard I Ganz, MD, FHRS, FACC
Section Editor
Bradley P Knight, MD, FACC
Deputy Editor
Gordon M Saperia, MD, FACC


In patients with atrial fibrillation (AF), the ventricular rate is controlled by the conduction properties of the atrioventricular node. In the typical patient with untreated AF, the ventricular rate can reach 150 beats/min or higher.

There are two important reasons to prevent a rapid ventricular response in patients with AF:

Avoidance of hemodynamic instability and/or symptoms. (See "Hemodynamic consequences of atrial fibrillation and cardioversion to sinus rhythm".)

Avoidance of a tachycardia-mediated cardiomyopathy. (See "Arrhythmia-induced cardiomyopathy".)

In patients with AF, a rapid ventricular response can be prevented either by restoring sinus rhythm or with therapies that reduce the ventricular response to AF. When rate control is chosen, it can usually be accomplished with pharmacologic therapy. However, some AF patients will respond poorly to or be intolerant of rate control medications. Options for such patients include reconsideration of a rhythm control strategy and nonpharmacologic methods to control the ventricular rate. (See "Overview of atrial fibrillation" and "Rhythm control versus rate control in atrial fibrillation".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: May 09, 2016.
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