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Diabetologia. 2020 Feb 7. doi: 10.1007/s00125-020-05106-7. [Epub ahead of print]

Influence of cardiac autonomic neuropathy on cardiac repolarisation during incremental adrenaline infusion in type 1 diabetes.

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Department of Oncology & Metabolism, University of Sheffield, Medical School, Beech Hill Road, Sheffield, UK.
INSIGNEO Institute for in silico Medicine, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.
Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK.
Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.
Leeds Institute of Life Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.
Institute of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, SC, Brazil.
School of Life Sciences, Queen's Medical Centre, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.
Department of Oncology & Metabolism, University of Sheffield, Medical School, Beech Hill Road, Sheffield, UK.
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK.



We examined the effect of a standardised sympathetic stimulus, incremental adrenaline (epinephrine) infusion on cardiac repolarisation in individuals with type 1 diabetes with normal autonomic function, subclinical autonomic neuropathy and established autonomic neuropathy.


Ten individuals with normal autonomic function and baroreceptor sensitivity tests (NAF), seven with subclinical autonomic neuropathy (SAN; normal standard autonomic function tests and abnormal baroreceptor sensitivity tests); and five with established cardiac autonomic neuropathy (CAN; abnormal standard autonomic function and baroreceptor tests) underwent an incremental adrenaline infusion. Saline (0.9% NaCl) was infused for the first hour followed by 0.01 μg kg-1 min-1 and 0.03 μg kg-1 min-1 adrenaline for the second and third hours, respectively, and 0.06 μg kg-1 min-1 for the final 30 min. High resolution ECG monitoring for QTc duration, ventricular repolarisation parameters (T wave amplitude, T wave area symmetry ratio) and blood sampling for potassium and catecholamines was performed every 30 min.


Baseline heart rate was 68 (95% CI 60, 76) bpm for the NAF group, 73 (59, 87) bpm for the SAN group and 84 (78, 91) bpm for the CAN group. During adrenaline infusion the heart rate increased differently across the groups (p = 0.01). The maximum increase from baseline (95% CI) in the CAN group was 22 (13, 32) bpm compared with 11 (7, 15) bpm in the NAF and 10 (3, 18) bpm in the SAN groups. Baseline QTc was 382 (95% CI 374, 390) ms in the NAF, 378 (363, 393) ms in the SAN and 392 (367, 417) ms in the CAN groups (p = 0.31). QTc in all groups lengthened comparably with adrenaline infusion. The longest QTc was 444 (422, 463) ms (NAF), 422 (402, 437) ms (SAN) and 470 (402, 519) ms (CAN) (p = 0.09). T wave amplitude and T wave symmetry ratio decreased and the maximum decrease occurred earlier, at lower infused adrenaline concentrations in the CAN group compared with NAF and SAN groups. AUC for the symmetry ratio was different across the groups and was lowest in the CAN group (p = 0.04). Plasma adrenaline rose and potassium fell comparably in all groups.


Participants with CAN showed abnormal repolarisation in some measures at lower adrenaline concentrations. This may be due to denervation adrenergic hypersensitivity. Such individuals may be at greater risk of cardiac arrhythmias in response to physiological sympathoadrenal challenges such as stress or hypoglycaemia.


Adrenaline infusion; Cardiac autonomic neuropathy; Cardiac repolarisation; Type 1 diabetes


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