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J Clin Psychopharmacol. 1997 Oct;17(5):370-6.

Paroxetine increases heart rate variability in panic disorder.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Oklahoma Health Science Center, Oklahoma City 73104, USA.


Panic patients have decreased heart rate variability, a risk factor for sudden cardiac death, and increased rates of cardiac death and stroke. Imipramine has been found to further reduce heart rate variability in panic. This study uses power spectral analysis to compare autonomic components of heart rate variability in 16 unmedicated control subjects and 17 panic patients before and after treatment with paroxetine at 20 mg/day for 4 weeks. Patients had higher predrug reclining and standing sympathetic activity than control subjects. After drug, patients' total sympathetic activity decreased. Predrug patients failed to increase sympathetic activity on orthostasis, lacking the normal baroreflex response found in control subjects. After drug, patients normalized this sympathetic component of the baroreflex response. Before drug, patients' parasympathetic reclining and standing activity did not differ from control subjects, and patients showed the normal orthostatic parasympathetic decrease. After drug, patients' total parasympathetic activity increased, whereas the baroreflex response was preserved. Nine medicated patients had more than a 50% reduction of panic attacks. In view of paroxetine's increase of heart rate variability, potential benefits of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in decreasing cardiac mortality in panic disorder are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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