Abnormalities in beat-to-beat dynamics of heart rate before the spontaneous onset of life-threatening ventricular tachyarrhythmias in patients with prior myocardial infarction

Heikki V. Huikuri, Tapio Seppänen, M. Juhani Koistinen, K. E.Juhani Airaksinen, M. J. Ikäheimo, Agustin Castellanos, Robert J. Myerburg

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213 Scopus citations


Background. Beat-to-beat analysis of RR intervals can reveal patterns of heart-rate dynamics, which are not easily detected by summary measures of heart-rate variability. This study was designed to test the hypothesis that alterations in RR-interval dynamics occur before the spontaneous onset of ventricular tachyarrhythmias (VT). Methods and Results. Ambulatory ECG recordings from 15 patients with prior myocardial infarction (MI) who had spontaneous episodes of sustained VT during the recording and VT inducible by programmed electrical stimulation (VT group) were analyzed by plotting each RR interval of a sinus beat as a function of the previous one (Poincare plot). Poincare plots were also generated for 30 post-MI patients who had no history of spontaneous VT events and no inducible VT (MI control subjects) and for 30 age-matched subjects without heart disease (normal control subjects). The MI control subjects and VT group were matched with respect to age and severity of underlying heart disease. All the healthy subjects and MI abnormal plots; 9 with a complex pattern, 3 ball-shaped, and 3 torpedo-shaped. Quantitative analysis of the Poincare plots showed the SD of the long-term RR-interval variability (SD2) to be smaller in all VT patients (52±14 ms; range, 31 to 75 ms) than in MI control subjects (110±24 ms; range, 78 to 179 ms, P<.001) or the normal subjects control subjects (123 ± 38 ms, P<.001), but the SD of the instantaneous beat-to-beat variability (SD1) did not differ between the groups. The complex plots were caused by periods of alternating sinus intervals, resulting in an increased SD1/SD2 ratio in the VT group. This ratio increased during the 1-hour period preceding the onset of 27 spontaneous VT episode (0.43±0.20) compared with her 24-hour average ratio (0.33±0.19) (P<.01). Conclusions. Reduced long-term RR-interval variability, associated with episodes of beat-to-beat sinus alternans, is a highly specific sign of a propensity for spontaneous onset of VT, suggesting that abnormal beat-to-beat heart-rate dynamics may reflect a transient electrical instability favoring the onset of VT in patients conditioned by structurally abnormal hearts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1836-1844
Number of pages9
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 1996



  • dynamics
  • heart rate
  • tachyarrhythmias

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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