Irregularity measures have been suggested as risk indicators in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF); however, it is not known to what extent they are affected by commonly used rate-control drugs. We aimed at evaluating the effect of metoprolol, carvedilol, diltiazem, and verapamil on the variability and irregularity of the ventricular response in patients with permanent AF.
Sixty patients with permanent AF were part of an investigator-blind cross-over study, comparing 4 rate-control drugs (diltiazem, verapamil, metoprolol, and carvedilol). We analyzed five 20-minute segments per patient: baseline and the 4 drug regimens. On every segment, heart rate (HR) variability and irregularity of RR series were computed. The variability was assessed as standard deviation, pNN20, pNN50, pNN80, and rMSSD. The irregularity was assessed by regularity index, approximate (ApEn), and sample entropy. A significantly lower HR was obtained with all drugs, the HR was lowest using the calcium channel blockers. All drugs increased the variability of ventricular response in respect to baseline (as an example, rMSSD: baseline 171 ± 47 milliseconds, carvedilol 229 ± 58 milliseconds; P