Pharmacotherapeutic Strategies for Atrial Fibrillation in Pregnancy

Introduction:

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is rare during pregnancy but its incidence is expected to rise in parallel to increasing age of women in pregnancy and fraction of pregnant women with structural heart disease.

Areas covered:

The authors provide a review of the contemporary evidence on diagnostic work-up and optimal pharmacotherapeutic management of AF in pregnancy. The authors have performed a systematic search for relevant articles using MEDLINE, the COCHRANE LIBRARY, and ClinicalTrials.gov.

Expert opinion:

New-onset AF during pregnancy is usually an indication of underlying heart disease and should lead to hospital admission. Patients should be evaluated by an experienced cardiologist or an electrophysiologist. Direct cardioversion is highly effective and safe in pregnant women and should be prioritized over pharmacologic cardioversion with intravenous ibutilide or flecainide.

Amiodarone should be avoided if possible. Digoxin and beta-blockers are the rate-control pharmaceutic agents with the widest experience of use. Catheter ablation during pregnancy should be considered in selected cases of atrial flutter refractory to medication and only performed using fluoroless techniques, preferably during the second trimester. Vitamin K antagonists (VKAs) can be used after the first trimester, while low molecular weight heparin should be accompanied by periodic evaluation of anti-Xa factor. Non-VKA oral anticoagulants should be avoided because of limited experience in pregnancy.