Antiarrhythmic drugs: Beta-adrenoceptor-blocking drugs (Class 2)


Beta-adrenoceptor-blocking drugs, commonly known as beta-blockers, are a class of medications with antiarrhythmic properties. These drugs work primarily through their β-receptor-blocking action and direct membrane effects. This article will talk about how Class 2 antiarrhythmic drugs work, how well they work, and how they can be used in therapy. It will mostly focus on propranolol, esmolol, and sotalol.

Mechanism of Action

  • β-Receptor-Blocking Action: Beta-blockers inhibit the action of catecholamines like adrenaline and noradrenaline on β-receptors, thereby reducing sympathetic stimulation of the heart.
  • Direct Membrane Effects: Some beta-blockers have direct effects on cardiac cell membranes, although the exact contribution of these effects to their antiarrhythmic properties is not fully understood.
  • Cardiac β1 Receptor Selectivity: Some beta-blockers are selective for cardiac β1 receptors, offering more targeted action.
  • Intrinsic Sympathomimetic Activity: Some beta-blockers possess intrinsic sympathomimetic activity, which can modulate their effects.
  • Action Potential Prolongation: Drugs like sotalol not only block β-receptors but also prolong the cardiac action potential (class 3 action).


  • Suppression of Ventricular Ectopic Depolarizations: Beta-blockers are generally less effective than sodium channel blockers in suppressing ventricular ectopic depolarizations.
  • Prevention of Recurrent Infarction and Sudden Death: There is strong evidence that beta-blockers can prevent recurrent myocardial infarction and sudden death in patients recovering from acute myocardial infarction.

Therapeutic Uses

  • Propranolol: A non-selective beta-blocker commonly used for various types of arrhythmias.
  • Esmolol: A short-acting beta-blocker used primarily for intraoperative and other acute arrhythmias.
  • Sotalol: A non-selective beta-blocker that also prolongs the action potential, making it effective for a range of arrhythmias.


Beta-blockers like propranolol, esmolol, and sotalol offer a multifaceted approach to the management of arrhythmias. While they may not be as effective as sodium channel blockers in suppressing certain types of arrhythmias, they have proven benefits in preventing recurrent myocardial infarction and sudden death. Their diverse mechanisms of action make them a valuable tool in the treatment of various cardiac conditions.

Note: This article is intended for educational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare professional for medical advice and treatment.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always seek the advice of a healthcare provider with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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