Electrophysiologic actions of high plasma concentrations of propranolol in human subjects

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The authors have previously shown that 40% of patients whose ventricular arrhythmias respond to propranolol require plasma concentrations in excess of those producing substantial beta-receptor blockade (> 150 ng/ml). However, the electrophysiologic actions of propranolol have only been examined in human beings after small intravenous doses achieving concentrations of less than 100 ng/ml. In this study, the electrophysiologic effects of a wider concentration range of propranolol was examined in nine patients. Using a series of loading and maintenance infusions, measurements were made at baseline, at low mean plasma propranolol concentrations (104 ± 17 ng/ml) and at high concentrations (472 ± 68 ng/ml). Significant (p < 0.05) increases in AH interval and sinus cycle length were seen at low concentrations of propranolol, with no further prolongation at the high concentrations; these effects are typical of those produced by beta-blockade. However, progressive shortening of the endocardial monophasic action potential duration and QTc interval were seen over the entire concentration range tested (p < 0.05). At high concentrations, there was significant (p < 0.05) further shortening of both the QTc and monophasic action potential duration beyond that seen at low propranolol concentrations, along with a progressive increase in the ratio of the ventricular effective refractory period to monophasic action potential duration. No significant changes were seen in HV interval, QRS duration or ventricular effective refractory period. In summary, the concentration-response relations for atrioventricular conductivity and sinus node automat-icity were flat above concentrations of 150 ng/ml. On the other hand, the durations of the monophasic action potential and the QTc interval shortened at high concentrations. It is concluded that propranolol, in addition to blocking beta-receptors, produces other beta-receptor independent electrophysiologic effects in human beings. © 1983, American College of Cardiology Foundation. All rights reserved.




Duff, H. J., Roden, D. M., Brorson, L., Wood, A. J. J., Dawson, A. K., Primm, R. K., … Woosley, R. L. (1983). Electrophysiologic actions of high plasma concentrations of propranolol in human subjects. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2(6), 1134–1140. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0735-1097(83)80340-4

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