Objective: Acute alcohol withdrawal is associated with increased cardiovascular mortality, most likely due to cardiac arrhythmias. As the QT interval reflects the most critical phase for the generation of reentry and thus for arrhythmia, we examined QT variability in patients suffering from acute alcohol withdrawal. Methods: High resolution electrocardiographic recordings were performed in 18 male unmedicated patients suffering from acute alcohol withdrawal, 18 matched controls and 15 abstained alcoholics. From these, parameters of beat-to-beat heart rate and QT variability such as approximate entropy and QT variability index (QTvi) were calculated. Measures were correlated with the severity of withdrawal symptoms and with serum electrolyte concentrations. Results: Heart rate and QTvi were significantly increased in acute alcohol withdrawal. Abstained alcoholics did not significantly differ from controls. While QTvi correlated with the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, the mean QT interval duration showed an inverse relationship with serum potassium concentrations. Conclusion: Our data indicate increased QT variability and thus increased repolarization lability in acute alcohol withdrawal. This might add to the elevated risk for serious cardiac arrhythmias. In part, these changes might be related to increased cardiac sympathetic activity or low potassium, thus suggesting the latter as possible targets for adjuvant pharmacological therapy during withdrawal. (C) 2007 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
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