Amiodarone is a potentially hazardous drug indicated for atrial and ventricular arrhythmias. The purpose of the audit was to assess the risk associated with amiodarone therapy and identify measures to improve patient safety. The setting was a rural practice with 13,000 patients in Lanark, Scotland. A computer search identified 16 patients (11 male, five female) receiving amiodarone. The mean age was 74 years (range 61–89 years).
Action taken was raising doctor awareness and systematic biochemical and clinical review. Results showed that, in spite of substantial mortality and morbidity prior to the audit, there was no effective practice monitoring system for amiodarone therapy. The prevalence of clinical hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism (29%) and ‘silent’ biochemical thyroid dysfunction (14%) exceeded published estimates (14–18% and 10% respectively). Although standards improved for biochemical monitoring, increasing awareness of the need for close surveillance did not appear to change the practice of some of the general practitioners (GPs), notably the clinical examination of pulse and blood pressure.
The audit demonstrates a need for a more systematic approach to amiodarone monitoring. Recommenda-tions include enhancements to the patient information leaflet, the development of local protocols and patient involvement in quality improvements including improved communication, patient-held record cards, better quality follow-up information, and more effective reporting systems.
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