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Psychiatry Res. 1998 Mar 20;78(1-2):89-99.

Decreased heart-period variability in patients with panic disorder: a study of Holter ECG records.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Dayton, OH 45428, USA.


This study investigated cardiac autonomic function in patients with panic disorder and normal controls using Holter ECG records. A decrease in ultra-low frequency power (< 0.0033 Hz) is known to be associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular mortality in humans. Twenty-four-hour ECG was recorded in 29 patients with panic disorder and 23 normal controls using Holter records. Data for 20 h and also 20000 s of awake and 20000 s of sleep periods were analyzed using spectral analysis to quantify absolute and relative heart-period variability in ultra low (ULF: < 0.0033 Hz), very low (VLF: 0.0033-0.04 Hz), low (LF: 0.04-0.15 Hz) and high (HF: 0.15-0.5 Hz) frequency bands. The patients with panic disorder had significantly lower total and absolute ULF power, which was more pronounced during sleep. The patients also had significantly lower relative ULF power and significantly higher relative LF power during sleep. There was a significant increase of relative LF power from awake to sleep period only in the patient group. The decrease in total and ULF power may increase the risk of mortality and sudden arrhythmic death in patients with panic disorder if they experience a cardiac event. The higher relative LF power during sleep also suggests a possible higher sympathetic drive in the patients during sleep.

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