Everything You Should Know About Diltiazem (Cardizem)

A 50-year-old male with a history of hypertension (HTN) and atrial fibrillation (AF) presents to the Emergency Department with complaint of palpitations, which started while mowing the lawn.

He is alert and oriented with a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) of 15 and no signs of Hypoperfusion.

The patient is compliant with his medications and denies any allergies.

A 12 Lead ECG is recorded.

Atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response (RVR) and generalized ST-segment depression indicative of subendocardial ischemia.

The patient was treated with 20 mg of diltiazem (Cardizem) over 2 min, followed by 10 mg over 1 hr, and 0.25 mg digoxin (Lanoxin).

A rhythm change was noted on the monitor and another 12-lead ECG was recorded.

There is a sinus rhythm with left ventricular hypertrophy by limb lead voltage criteria and left atrial enlargement. There are no signs of subendocardial ischemia, suggesting the ST-segment depression was rate-related.

The patient was now asymptomatic and admitted for observation without further incident.

Understanding Diltiazem (Cardizem)

Diltiazem (Cardizem) is a Class IV antiarrhythmic and one of the most common pharmacological agents used for treatment of AF with RVR.

Class IV antiarrhythmics are Calcium Channel Blockers (CCBs), which inhibit intracellular calcium influx via calcium channel antagonism. These particular pharmacological agents can be further divided into subdivisions based on their molecular composition:

Dihydropyridines (DHPs)

Examples include:

Non-dihydropyridines (NDHPs)

Examples include:

Vaughan-Williams Anti-arrhythmic Classification

There are four specific classes of antiarrhythmics with specific physiological functions divided into classes based on their mechanism of action. The rest of the pharmacological agents used as antiarrhythmics fall under the fifth class with different mechanisms of action from the previous classes.

One important aspect to understand is that although they are all antiarrhythmics, each class works under different mechanisms and therefore may have different effects on cardiac cells. Some target atrial, AV nodal or ventricular cells, while some have the capacity to address both atrial and ventricular arrhythmias.

Pharmacological Use

Diltiazem has a COR I, LOE-b classification, used for rate control of atrial arrhythmias, predominantly Atrial Fibrillation, and COR IIa, LOE-b for treatment of SVT with a reentry pathway mechanism.

2014 AHA/ACC/HRS Guideline for the Management of Patients With Atrial Fibrillation: Executive Summary: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines and the Heart Rhythm Society. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;64(21):2246-2280. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2014.03.021

2015 ACC/AHA/HRS Guideline for the Management of Adult Patients With Supraventricular Tachycardia: Executive Summary: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines and the Heart Rhythm Society. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015 Sep 16. pii: S0735-1097(15)06203-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2015.09.019.

Mechanism Of Action


Dose and Administration

Although dosages may vary based on physician orders, protocols and age, a standard initial dose is 0.25 mg/kg, ranging between 10-20 mg over 2 minutes, with a second dose of 0.35 mg/kg, ranging between 20-25 mg over 2 minutes, often followed by a 5-10 mg/hr infusion.

Treatment of hemodynamically unstable patients in narrow QRS complex AF with RVR requires synchronized cardioversion at 120-200 J initially, and should not be delayed for administration of an anti-arrhythmic agent.