Rate-Control Drugs Affect Variability and Irregularity Measures of RR Intervals in Patients with Permanent Atrial Fibrillation

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Heart Rate Variability and Irregularity During AF IntroductionIrregularity measures have been suggested as risk indicators in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF); however, it is not known to what extent they are affected by commonly used rate-control drugs. We aimed at evaluating the effect of metoprolol, carvedilol, diltiazem, and verapamil on the variability and irregularity of the ventricular response in patients with permanent AF. Methods and ResultsSixty patients with permanent AF were part of an investigator-blind cross-over study, comparing 4 rate-control drugs (diltiazem, verapamil, metoprolol, and carvedilol). We analyzed five 20-minute segments per patient: baseline and the 4 drug regimens. On every segment, heart rate (HR) variability and irregularity of RR series were computed. The variability was assessed as standard deviation, pNN20, pNN50, pNN80, and rMSSD. The irregularity was assessed by regularity index, approximate (ApEn), and sample entropy. A significantly lower HR was obtained with all drugs, the HR was lowest using the calcium channel blockers. All drugs increased the variability of ventricular response in respect to baseline (as an example, rMSSD: baseline 171 47 milliseconds, carvedilol 229 +/- 58 milliseconds; P < 0.05 vs. baseline, metoprolol 226 +/- 66 milliseconds; P < 0.05 vs. baseline, verapamil 228 +/- 84; P < 0.05 vs. baseline, diltiazem 256 +/- 87 milliseconds; P < 0.05 vs. baseline and all other drugs). Only -blockers significantly increased the irregularity of the RR series (as an example, ApEn: baseline 1.86 +/- 0.13, carvedilol 1.92 +/- 0.09; P < 0.05 vs. baseline, metoprolol 1.93 +/- 0.08; P < 0.05 vs. baseline, verapamil 1.86 +/- 0.22 ns, diltiazem 1.88 +/- 0.16 ns). ConclusionModification of AV node conduction by rate-control drugs increase RR variability, while only -blockers affect irregularity.


  • Valentina D. A. Corino
  • Sara R. Ulimoen
  • Steve Enger
  • Luca T. Mainardi
  • Arnljot Tveit
  • Pyotr Platonov
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cardiac and Cardiovascular Systems


  • atrial fibrillation, -blockers, calcium-channel blockers, entropy, irregularity, rate-control drugs, time domain parameters, variability
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-141
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch