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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1994 Sep;116(1):110-4.

Heart rate analysis in 24 patients treated with 150 mg amitriptyline per day.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University in Erlangen, Germany.


Twenty-four patients treated with 150 mg amitriptyline per day for an episode of major depression underwent a standardized heart rate analysis (HRA) before therapy and after 14 days. The battery of cardiovascular reflex tests included the determination of the coefficient of variation (CV) while resting and during deep respiration, a spectral analysis of heart rate, the heart rate response to standing, and the Valsalva manoeuvre. The results of the initial HRA did not differ from a group of 24 normal control subjects matched for age and sex. On day 14 of treatment the patients showed significantly reduced values of heart rate variability in all tests (P < 0.0001), probably due to the anticholinergic side effects of amitriptyline. Heart rate increased from 78.1 to 93.6 bpm on average (P < 0.0001). Abnormal CV at rest was registered in 96% of the patients; during deep respiration 29% showed abnormal CV results. An abnormal spectral analysis was found in 100% of the cases (low frequency peak: 42%, mid-frequency peak: 100%, high frequency peak: 79%). The heart rate response to standing was abnormal in 75% and the Valsalva test in 33% of the cases. Eighty-eight percent of the patients fulfilled the criteria of a cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy under the conditions of amitriptyline therapy. As yet, the consequences of these changes for the patients have not been sufficiently elucidated.

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