Medication for Arrhythmias in Children

Doctors at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone prescribe medication to manage the symptoms of some types of childhood arrhythmias, especially those that make the heart beat too fast.

Beta blockers and calcium channel blockers both regulate heartbeats by slowing electrical impulses in the heart, although they work in different ways. Beta blockers prevent adrenaline—a hormone that is released in response to stress—from increasing heart rate. In contrast, calcium channel blockers prevent calcium from entering cells in the heart, which slows the force of contractions and regulates heart rhythm.

Our doctors may prescribe one or more medications to regulate heart rhythm, depending on the type and severity of your child’s arrhythmia. These medications are taken daily by mouth, as a liquid or tablet. It’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations about how often these medications should be taken.

Children with an arrhythmia caused by an infection or one that appears after heart surgery may only need medication until the heart heals itself. In other instances, doctors may prescribe antiarrhythmic medications until the child has a procedure to treat the underlying condition, such as a congenital heart problem. For some children, lifelong use of antiarrhythmic medications may be needed.

Our heart specialists are experienced in choosing the most effective medication for your child. Our doctors monitor children who are taking antiarrhythmic medications frequently to look for possible side effects and to adjust medication dosages as your child grows.

Prenatal Treatment

Babies in the womb who show signs of heart failure or a severe arrhythmia may be treated with antiarrhythmic medications before they are born. When given to the mother, these medications cross the placenta—the temporary organ that allows nutrients and oxygen to nourish the developing infant—and regulate the baby’s heart rhythm.