Safety and efficacy of quinidine in elderly patients have not been systematically studied.
In antimalarial trials, quinidine was as safe and effective in pediatric patients as in adults. Notwithstanding the known pharmacokinetic differences between children and adults (see Pharmacokinetics and Metabolism), children in these trials received the same doses (on a mg/kg basis) as adults.
Safety and effectiveness of antiarrhythmic use in children have not been established.
Quinidine preparations have been used for many years, but there are only sparse data from which to estimate the incidence of various adverse reactions. The adverse reactions most frequently reported have consistently been gastrointestinal, including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and heartburn/esophagitis.
In the reported study that was closest in character to the predominant approved use of quinidine gluconate, 86 adult outpatients with atrial fibrillation were followed for six months while they received slow-release quinidine bisulfate tablets, 600 mg (approximately 400 mg of quinidine base) twice daily. The incidences of adverse experiences reported more than once were as shown in the table below. The most serious quinidine-associated adverse reactions are described above under WARNINGS.
Vomiting and diarrhea can occur as isolated reactions to therapeutic levels of quinidine, but they may also be the first signs of cinchonism , a syndrome that may also include tinnitus, reversible high-frequency hearing loss, deafness, vertigo, blurred vision, diplopia, photophobia, headache, confusion, and delirium. Cinchonism is most often a sign of chronic quinidine toxicity, but it may appear in sensitive patients after a single moderate dose.
A few cases of hepatotoxicity , including granulomatous hepatitis, have been reported in patients receiving quinidine. All of these have appeared during the first few weeks of therapy, and most (not all) have remitted once quinidine was withdrawn.
Autoimmune and inflammatory syndromes associated with quinidine therapy have included fever, urticaria, flushing, exfoliative rash, bronchospasm, psoriasiform rash, pruritus and lymphadenopathy, hemolytic anemia, vasculitis, thrombocytopenia, thrombocytopenic purpura, uveitis, angioedema, agranulocytosis, the sicca syndrome, arthralgia, myalgia, elevation in serum levels of skeletal-muscle enzymes, a disorder resembling systemic lupus erythematosus, and pneumonitis.
Convulsions, apprehension, and ataxia have been reported, but it is not clear that these were not simply the results of hypotension and consequent cerebral hypoperfusion. There are many reports of syncope. Acute psychotic reactions have been reported to follow the first dose of quinidine, but these reactions appear to be extremely rare.
Other adverse reactions occasionally reported include depression, mydriasis, disturbed color perception, night blindness, scotomata, optic neuritis, visual field loss, photosensitivity, and abnormalities of pigmentation.
Overdoses with various oral formulations of quinidine have been well described. Death has been described after a 5-gram ingestion by a toddler, while an adolescent was reported to survive after ingesting 8 grams of quinidine.
The most important ill effects of acute quinidine overdoses are ventricular arrhythmias and hypotension. Other signs and symptoms of overdose may include vomiting, diarrhea, tinnitus, high-frequency hearing loss, vertigo, blurred vision, diplopia, photophobia, headache, confusion and delirium.
Serum quinidine levels can be conveniently assayed and monitored, but the electrocardiographic QTc interval is a better predictor of quinidine-induced ventricular arrhythmias.
The necessary treatment of hemodynamically unstable polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (including torsades de pointes) is withdrawal of treatment with quinidine and either immediate cardioversion or, if a cardiac pacemaker is in place or immediately available, immediate overdrive pacing. After pacing or cardioversion, further management must be guided by the length of the QTc interval.
Quinidine-associated ventricular tachyarrhythmias with normal underlying QTc intervals have not been adequately studied. Because of the theoretical possibility of QT-prolonging effects that might be additive to those of quinidine, other antiarrhythmics with Class I (disopyramide, procainamide) or Class III activities should (if possible) be avoided. Similarly, although the use of bretylium in quinidine overdose has not been reported, it is reasonable to expect that the α-blocking properties of bretylium might be additive to those of quinidine, resulting in problematic hypotension.
If the post-cardioversion QTc interval is prolonged, then the pre-cardioversion polymorphic ventricular tachycardia was (by definition) torsades de pointes. In this case, lidocaine and bretylium are unlikely to be of value, and other Class I antiarrhythmics (disopyramide, procainamide) are likely to exacerbate the situation. Factors contributing to QTc prolongation (especially hypokalemia and hypomagnesemia) should be sought out and (if possible) aggressively corrected. Prevention of recurrent torsades may require sustained overdrive pacing or the cautious administration of isoproterenol (30 to 150 ng/kg/min).
Quinidine-induced hypotension that is not due to an arrhythmia is likely to be a consequence of quinidine-related α-blockade and vasorelaxation. Simple repletion of central volume (Trendelenburg positioning, saline infusion) may be sufficient therapy; other interventions reported to have been beneficial in this setting are those that increase peripheral vascular resistance, including α-agonist catecholamines (norepinephrine, metaraminol) and the Military Anti-Shock Trousers.
To obtain up-to-date information about the treatment of overdose, a good resource is your certified Regional Poison-Control Center. Telephone numbers of certified poison-control centers are listed in the Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR). In managing overdose, consider the possibilities of multiple-drug overdoses, drug-drug interactions, and unusual drug kinetics in your patient.
Adequate studies of orally-administered activated charcoal in human overdoses of quinidine have not been reported, but there are animal data showing significant enhancement of systemic elimination following this intervention, and there is at least one human case report in which the elimination half-life of quinidine in the serum was apparently shortened by repeated gastric lavage. Activated charcoal should be avoided if an ileus is present; the conventional dose is 1 gram/kg administered every 2 to 6 hours as a slurry with 8 mL/kg of tap water.
Although renal elimination of quinidine might theoretically be accelerated by maneuvers to acidify the urine, such maneuvers are potentially hazardous and of no demonstrated benefit.
Quinidine is not usefully removed from the circulation by dialysis.
Following quinidine overdose, drugs that delay elimination of quinidine (cimetidine, carbonic-anhydrase inhibitors, diltiazem, thiazide diuretics) should be withdrawn unless absolutely required.
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