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Eur J Clin Invest. 2003 Feb;33(2):93-8.

Effects of adrenaline and potassium on QTc interval and QT dispersion in man.

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Division of Clinical Sciences, Northern General Hospital, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.



Hypoglycaemia alters cardiac repolarization acutely, with increases in rate-corrected QT (QTc) interval and QT dispersion (QTd) on the electrocardiogram (ECG); such changes are related to the counterregulatory sympatho-adrenal response. Adrenaline produces both QTc lengthening and a fall in plasma potassium (K+) when infused into healthy volunteers. Hypokalaemia prolongs cardiac repolarization independently however, and therefore our aim was to determine whether adrenaline-induced repolarization changes are mediated directly or through lowered plasma K+.


Ten healthy males were studied on two occasions. At both visits they received similar l-adrenaline infusions but on one occasion potassium was also administered; infusion rates were adjusted to maintain circulating K+ at baseline. The QTc interval, QTd, peripheral physiological responses and plasma adrenaline and potassium concentrations were measured during both visits.


The QTc interval and QTd increased both with and without potassium clamping. Without K+ replacement, mean (SE) QTc lengthened from 378 (5) ms to a final maximum value of 433 (10) ms, and QTd increased from 36 (5) ms to 69 (8) ms (both P < 0.001). During K+ replacement, QTc duration at baseline and study end was 385 (7) ms and 423 (11) ms, respectively (P < 0.001), and QTd 38 was (4) ms and 63 (5) ms (P = 0.001).


These data suggest that disturbed cardiac repolarization as a result of increases in circulating adrenaline occurs independently of extracellular potassium. A direct effect of adrenaline upon the myocardium appears the most likely mechanism.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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