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Am Heart J. 2001 Oct;142(4):617-23.

Effect of sertraline on the recovery rate of cardiac autonomic function in depressed patients after acute myocardial infarction.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, McMaster University Faculty of Health Sciences, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.



Brain serotonin is known to possess sympathoinhibitory properties. The aim of this clinical physiologic study was to determine whether sertraline, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, facilitates the rate of recovery of cardiac autonomic function after an acute myocardial infarction (MI) in patients with depression.


Thirty-eight post-MI depressed patients were randomized to receive either sertraline 50 mg per day or placebo for 6 months. Depression was defined as a score >15 on the standardized Inventory to Diagnose Depression questionnaire taken at prehospital discharge and again within 2 weeks of the acute infarct. Eleven stable post-MI nondepressed patients served as a nonrandomized reference group during follow-up. Twenty-seven patients completed the randomization. All 3 groups were followed up closely in a multidisciplinary post-MI clinic where they underwent serial testing for both time and frequency domain heart rate variability (HRV) indices at baseline (1-2 weeks after MI) and at 6, 10, 14, 18, and 22 weeks. The rate of recovery of HRV was determined by use of a growth curve model based on repeated-measures analysis of variance. There was a linear rate of increase in the SD of 24-hour N-N intervals (SDNN) in the sertraline-treated group that paralleled that of the nondepressed reference group. This contrasted with a modest but significant decline in SDNN in the placebo group from 2 to 22 weeks (t = 2.10, P <.05). However, the short-term power spectral indices, while trending toward a more rapid rate of recovery in the treated group, did not reach statistical significance compared with the placebo group.


In depressed patients who have survived the acute phase of an MI sertraline facilitates the rate of recovery of SDNN, a recognized predictor of clinical outcome.

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