Antiarrhythmic drugs: Lidocaine (Class 1B)


Lidocaine is a multifaceted medication primarily known as a local anesthetic, but it also has significant roles as an antiarrhythmic and analgesic agent. Classified as a Class Ib antiarrhythmic agent under the Vaughan-Williams classification, lidocaine is particularly effective in the treatment of ventricular arrhythmias. This includes its use in managing life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias that may occur following an acute myocardial infarction (MI) or during cardiac manipulative procedures. Notably, lidocaine is often the first-choice agent for treating acute ventricular arrhythmias due to its rapid onset of action and a favorable electrophysiological profile​​​​​​​​​.

Cardiac Effects

Mechanism of Action


  • Sodium Channel Blockade: Lidocaine blocks activated and inactivated sodium channels with rapid kinetics.
  • Selective Depression of Conduction: In depolarized cells, lidocaine selectively depresses conduction due to increased inactivation and slower unbinding kinetics.
  • Minimal ECG Impact: Little effect is seen on the ECG in normal sinus rhythm.


  • Low Cardiotoxicity: Lidocaine is one of the least cardiotoxic sodium channel blockers currently in use.
  • Proarrhythmic Effects: These are uncommon but can include SA node arrest, worsening of impaired conduction, and ventricular arrhythmias.
  • Neurologic Adverse Effects: These include paresthesias, tremor, nausea of central origin, lightheadedness, hearing disturbances, slurred speech, and convulsions.

Pharmacokinetics & Dosage

  • Administration: Lidocaine is administered intravenously due to its extensive first-pass hepatic metabolism.
  • Half-Life: 1-2 hours.
  • Loading and Maintenance Doses: A loading dose of 150–200 mg is followed by a maintenance infusion of 2–4 mg/min.
  • Special Considerations: Dosage adjustments are necessary for patients with heart failure, liver disease, or those taking drugs that affect liver blood flow.

Therapeutic Use

  • Indications: Lidocaine is the agent of choice for terminating ventricular tachycardia and preventing ventricular fibrillation after cardioversion in acute ischemia settings.
  • Limitations: Routine prophylactic use may increase total mortality by increasing the incidence of asystole and is not the standard of care.


Lidocaine is a potent antiarrhythmic agent with a low incidence of toxicity, making it particularly useful in the setting of acute myocardial infarction. However, its use should be carefully monitored, especially in patients with preexisting conditions like heart failure or liver disease. Lidocaine remains a valuable tool in the arsenal against life-threatening arrhythmias, but like all medications, it must be used judiciously.

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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