UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Critical Care

Title: Amiodarone-Induced Lung Toxicity

Keywords: amiodarone, lung toxicity, ARDS, infection, critical care (PubMed Search)

Posted: 12/20/2011 by Haney Mallemat, MD
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Amiodarone-induced lung toxicity (ALT) is a serious and sometimes fatal complication of amiodarone use.

Symptoms range from mild (e.g., dyspnea with exertion) to acute respiratory distress syndrome and risk of death.

ALT is secondary to either release of toxic oxygen radials that are directly toxic to the lung or the reaction is secondary to an indirect immunologic reaction.

Risk factors for ALT: use > 2 months, dose > 400mg/day, advanced age, or pre-existing lung injury

ALT is typically a diagnosis of exclusion so suspect ALT through a detailed history; physical exam and radiology are non-specific. Lung biopsy is the only confirmatory test.

Treat ALT by discontinuing the drug, steroids, and supportive care. In rare cases where amiodarone cannot be safely discontinued (i.e., life-threatening arrhythmia), dosage should be reduced and steroids added immediately.

Generally, ALT is reversible with a good prognosis.


Mahajan, V. et al Amiodarone induced acute interstitial pneumonitis.BMJ Case Rep. 2009;2009.

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