Neural Control of Heart Rate Is an Arrhythmia Risk Modifier in Long QT Syndrome

Peter J. Schwartz, Emilio Vanoli, Lia Crotti, Carla Spazzolini, Chiara Ferrandi, Althea Goosen, Paula Hedley, Marshall Heradien, Sara Bacchini, Annalisa Turco, Maria Teresa La Rovere, Antonella Bartoli, Alfred L. George, Paul A. Brink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that differences in autonomic responses might modify clinical severity in long QT syndrome type 1 (LQT1) patients, those with KCNQ1 mutations and reduced IKs, in whom the main arrhythmia trigger is sympathetic activation. Background: Some long QT syndrome (LQTS) patients experience life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias, whereas others remain asymptomatic throughout life. This clinical heterogeneity is currently unexplained. Methods: In a South African LQT1 founder population segregating KCNQ1-A341V, we correlated major cardiac events to resting heart rate (HR) and to baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) on and off beta-adrenergic blockers (BB). Results: In 56 mutation carriers (MCs), mean HR was lower among asymptomatic patients (p <0.05). Among MCs with a QT interval corrected for heart rate ≤500 ms, those in the lower HR tertile were less likely to have suffered prior cardiac events (odds ratio [OR] 0.19, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.04 to 0.79, p <0.02). The BRS was lower among asymptomatic than symptomatic MCs (11.8 ± 3.5 ms/mm Hg vs. 20.1 ± 10.9 ms/mm Hg, p <0.05). A BRS in the lower tertile was associated with a lower probability of being symptomatic (OR 0.13, 95% CI 0.02 to 0.96, p <0.05). A similar trend was observed during BB. The MCs in the lower tertile for both HR and BRS were less frequently symptomatic than MCs with different patterns (20% vs. 76%, p <0.05). Subjects with either ADRA2C-Del322-325 or homozygous for ADRB1-R389, 2 polymorphisms predicting enhanced adrenergic response, were more likely to have BRS values above the upper tertile (45% vs. 8%, p <0.05). Conclusions: Lower resting HR and "relatively low" BRS are protective factors in KCNQ1-A341V carriers. A plausible underlying mechanism is that blunted autonomic responses prevent rapid HR changes, arrhythmogenic when IKs is reduced. These findings help understanding phenotypic heterogeneity in LQTS and identify a physiological risk modifier, which is probably genetically determined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)920-929
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Mar 4 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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