Pharmacologic management of supraventricular tachycardias in children: Part 1: Wolff-Parkinson-White and atrioventricular nodal reentry

Sherry A. Luedtke, Robert J. Kuhn, Francis M. McCaffrey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To review the literature regarding the use of antiarrhythmic agents in the management of Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome and atrioventricular nodal reentry tachycardia (AVNRT) in infants and children, and to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of specific agents in each arrhythmia in an effort to develop treatment guidelines. DATA SOURCES: A MEDLINE search encompassing the years 1966-1996 was used to identify pertinent literature for discussion. Additional references were found in the articles that were retrieved via MEDLINE. STUDY SELECTION: Clinical trials that address the use of antiarrhythmic agents for the treatment of the supraventricular tachycardias WPW and AVNRT in children were selected. Literature pertaining to dosage, pharmacokinetics, efficacy, and toxicity of antiarrhythmic agents in children were considered for possible inclusion in the review, and information judged to be pertinent by the authors was included in the discussion. DATA EXTRACTION: Although there are numerous reports of antiarrhythmic use in children; very few large studies are designed to evaluate an individual antiarrhythmic agent for a specific arrhythmia. Controlled, comparison trials of antiarrhythmic agents in children are virtually nonexistent. Ideally, controlled clinical trials are used to develop clinical guidelines; however, in this situation, most data and information must be obtained from case series of children treated. Although the results from these type of studies may be useful in developing guidelines for the optimal use of these agents, controlled trials are required for establishing standard treatment guidelines for all patients. DATA SYNTHESIS: Despite limited scientific evaluation of conventional agents in the treatment of WPW and AVNRT in children, they continue to be used as standard of care. Most information regarding the use of conventional agents in children has been extrapolated from the adult literature. LiTtle justification for the use of the agents or dosing in children is available. Controlled trials regarding the use of new antiarrhythmic agents (propafenone, amiodarone, flecainide) are available; however, the variance in dosing schemes, presence of structural heart disease, and patient age make the development oF recommendations difficult. CONCLUSIONS: Because of greater clinical experience with these conventional antiarrhythmic agents they continue to be first-line therapy in the management of most supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) in children. The management of SVT in children with WPW syndrome should begin with the use of a β-blocker with the addition of digoxin or procainamide for treatment failures. The use of digoxin monotherapy, although frequently used by many practitioners in infants and children with WPW, cannot be recommended. For failures to conventional agents, flecainide is the preferred agent, while therapy with propafenone, amiodarone, and sotalol remains to be elucidated. The management of AVRNT is similar to that of WPW; however, digoxin is the agent of first choice. Trials of β-blockers and procainamide should follow for treatment failures with flecainide again being the preferred 'newer' antiarrhythmic for use in resistant cases. Additional well-designed, controlled trials are needed to further evaluate the comparative efficacy of antiarrythmics in the management of WPW and AVNRT in children, as well as to evaluate dosing and toxicity in various age groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1227-1243
Number of pages17
JournalAnnals of Pharmacotherapy
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1997


  • Atrioventricular nodal reentry tachycardia
  • Pediatrics
  • Wolff-Paskinson-White syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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