Objectives. This substudy tested a prospective hypothesis that European Myocardial Infarct Amiodarone Trial (EMIAT) patients with depressed heart rate variability (HRV) benefit from amiodarone treatment. Background. The EMIAT randomized 1,486 survivors of acute myocardial infarction (MI) aged ≤75 years with left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) ≤40% to amiodarone or placebo. Despite a reduction of arrhythmic mortality on amiodarone, all-cause mortality was not changed. Methods. Heart rate variability was assessed from prerandomization 24-h Holter tapes in 1,216 patients (606 on amiodarone). Two definitions of depressed HRV were used: standard deviation of normal to normal intervals (SDNN) ≤50 ms and HRV index ≤20 units. The survival of patients with depressed HRV was compared in the placebo and amiodarone arms. A retrospective analysis investigated the prospective dichotomy limits. All tests were repeated in five subpopulations: patients with first MI, patients on beta-adrenergic blocking agents, patients with LVEF ≤30%, patients with Holter arrhythmia and patients with baseline heart rate ≥75 beats/min. Results. Centralized Holter processing produced artificially high SDNN but accurate HRV index values. Heart rate variability index was ≤20 U in 363 (29.9%) patients (183 on amiodarone) with all-cause mortality 22.8% on placebo and 17.5% on amiodarone (23.2% reduction, p = 0.24) and cardiac arrhythmic mortality 12.8% on placebo and 4.4% on amiodarone (66% reduction, p = 0.0054). Among patients with prospectively defined depressed HRV, the largest reduction of all-cause mortality was in patients with first MI (placebo 17.9%, amiodarone 10.3%, 42.5% reduction, p = 0.079) and in patients with heart rate ≥75 beats/ min (placebo 29.0%, amiodarone 19.3%, 33.7% reduction, p = 0.075). Among patients with first MI and depressed HRV, amiodarone treatment was an independent predictor of survival in a multivariate Cox analysis. The retrospective analysis found a larger reduction of mortality on amiodarone in 313 (25.7%) patients with HRV index ≤19 U: 23.9% on placebo and 17.1% on amiodarone (28.4% reduction, p = 0.15). This was more expressed in patients with first MI: 49.4% mortality reduction on amiodarone (p = 0.046), on beta-blockers: 69.0% reduction (p = 0.047) and with heart rate ≥75 beats/min: 37.9% reduction (p = 0.054). Conclusion. Measurement of HRV in a large set of centrally processed Holter recordings is feasible with robust methods of assessment. Patients with LVEF≤40% and depressed HRV benefit from prophylactic antiarrhythmic treatment with amiodarone. However, this finding needs confirmation in an independent data set before clinical practice is changed. (C) 2000 by the American College of Cardiology.
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