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Clin Cardiol. 2002 Feb;25(2):49-56.

Gender differences in arrhythmias.

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Division of Cardiology, The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey 17033, USA.


Electrocardiographic and electrophysiologic differences between men and women have long been noted. Women have a higher intrinsic heart rate than men, along with a longer corrected QT interval and a shorter sinus nodal recovery time. The incidence of and risk factors for a variety of arrhythmias differ between men and women. Atrioventricular nodal reentry tachycardia has a 2:1 female-to-male predominance, while accessory pathways are twice as frequent in men. Although atrial fibrillation is more prevalent in men of all age groups, the absolute numbers of men and women with atrial fibrillation are equal, and the associated morbidity and mortality experienced by women with atrial fibrillation appear to be worse. Women have a lower incidence of sudden cardiac death, and female survivors of sudden cardiac death have a lower frequency of spontaneous or inducible ventricular tachycardia. On the other hand, drug-induced torsade de pointes and symptomatic long QT syndrome have a female predominance. Therefore, greater caution should be used when prescribing QT-prolonging drugs in women. The incidence of arrhythmias is increased during pregnancy, and management of pregnant patients poses a significant challenge. The mechanisms of these gender differences are unclear but may be related to hormonal effects and the shorter QT interval in adult males. Pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic therapies are usually equally efficacious, but the risks of pharmacologic therapy are different in men and women. Atrial fibrillation may be more difficult to treat in women.

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