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Atrial Fibrillation in Patients with Congenital Heart Disease


Because of advances in surgical techniques, most patients with congenital heart disease (CHD) now survive to adulthood. During their lifetime, many of them will develop atrial tachyarrhythmias due to atrial dilatation and scarring from surgical procedures. More complex defects and palliative repairs are linked to a higher incidence and earlier occurrence of arrhythmias. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is common in patients who have atrial septal defects repaired after age 55 and in patients with tetralogy of Fallot repaired after age 45. Patients with dextrotransposition of the great arteries who undergo Mustard or Senning atrial switch procedures have an increased risk of atrial flutter due to atrial baffle suture lines. Patients with Ebsteinís anomaly are also prone to supraventricular tachycardias caused by accessory bypass tracts. Patients with a single ventricle who undergo Fontan palliation are at risk of developing persistent or permanent AF due to extreme atrial enlargement and hypertrophy. In addition, obtaining vascular access to the pulmonary venous atrium can present unique challenges during radiofrequency ablation for patients with a Fontan palliation. Patients with cyanotic CHD who develop AF have substantial morbidity because of limited hemodynamic reserve and a high viscosity state. Amiodarone is an effective therapy for patients with arrhythmias from CHD, but its use carries long-term risks for toxicity. Dofetilide and sotalol have good short-term effectiveness and are reasonable alternatives to amiodarone. Pulmonary vein isolation is associated with better outcomes in patients taking antiarrhythmic medications. Anticoagulants are challenging to prescribe for patients with CHD because of a lack of data that can be extrapolated to this patient population. Surgical ablation is the gold standard for invasive rhythm control in patients with CHD and should be considered at the time of surgical repair or revision of congenital heart defects. When possible, patients with complex CHD should be referred for care to an adult congenital heart disease center of excellence.

Credits: Tabitha G. Moe, MD, Victor Abrich, MD, Edward Rhee, MD



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Introduction to AFib
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