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Autonomic modulation of the atrial cycle length by the head up tilt test: non-invasive evaluation in patients with chronic atrial fibrillation
  1. M P Ingemansson,
  2. M Holm,
  3. S B Olsson
  1. Department of Cardiology, University Hospital, S-221 85 Lund, Sweden
  1. Dr Ingemansson.


Objective To determine the effects of upright posture compared with supine position on the dominant atrial cycle length (DACL) in patients with chronic atrial fibrillation.

Design The power/frequency spectrum of QRST suppressed lead V1 ECG was studied in 14 patients in the supine position and during the head up tilt table test. The DACL changes were compared with changes in heart rate and blood pressure.

Results Compared with the supine position, the upright position reduced the DACL from 160 to 150 ms (p < 0.01). The DACL was increased after returning to the supine position from the upright position, from 147 to 154 ms (p < 0.01). Heart rate increased from 91 beats/min in the supine position to 106 in the upright position (p < 0.01). There was a decrease in heart rate from 109 beats/min in the upright position to 93 after returning to the supine position (p < 0.01). No significant changes were seen in systolic or diastolic blood pressure. There were indications of an inverse relation between DACL and heart rate when comparing the supine position before and after tilt with the upright position (p < 0.001).

Conclusions The sympathetic stimulation and vagal withdrawal induced by rising to upright body position are associated with a decrease in DACL during chronic atrial fibrillation. Thus a reflex increase in sympathetic discharge after induction of atrial fibrillation could favour the persistence of the arrhythmia.

  • atrial fibrillation
  • autonomic nervous system
  • atrial cycle length
  • heart rate

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