This study was designed to assess the temporal changes in vagal responses to atrial premature beats before spontaneous onset of atrial fibrillation (AF). Enhanced vagal activity plays a major role in the onset and perpetuation of experimental AF, but the role of vagal activation in the onset of clinical AF episodes is not so well established. We calculated heart rate turbulence after atrial premature impulses occurring 0 to 60 min before the onset of AF ("prior to AF") and compared it with the hourly means of the other hours of the 24-h electrocardiogram recordings ("non-AF hours") in 39 patients with structural heart disease and 29 patients with lone AF. Traditional heart rate variability measurements and approximate entropy (ApEn) were also analyzed. Turbulence onset (TO) was significantly less negative during the 1 h preceding AF than during the non-AF hours (0.71 ± 1.76 vs. -0.35 ± 1.46, p < 0.00001). Less negative TO before AF was observed among both the patients with structural heart disease (1.16 ± 1.73 vs. 0.07 ± 1.23; p < 0.0001) and those with lone AF (0.17 ± 1.67 vs. -0.85 ± 1.56; p < 0.0001). No significant difference was seen in the turbulence slope between the two periods, and none of the traditional frequency and time domain measurements differentiated between the periods; ApEn was significantly lower before AF than during the non-AF hours (p < 0.01). Altered heart rate dynamics, suggesting transient enhancement of vagal outflow after premature atrial excitation, are temporally related to spontaneous onset of clinical AF. © 2005 by the American College of Cardiology Foundation.
Vikman, S., Lindgren, K., Mäkikallio, T. H., Yli-Mäyry, S., Airaksinen, K. E. J., & Huikuri, H. V. (2005). Heart rate turbulence after atrial premature beats before spontaneous onset of atrial fibrillation. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 45(2), 278–284. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2004.10.033