Research Paper

Clinical Autonomic Research

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 119-122

First online:

Autonomic cardiac abnormalities in alcohol-dependent patients admitted to a psychiatric department

  • T. RechlinAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg
  • , I. OrbesAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg
  • , M. WeisAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg
  • , W. P. KaschkaAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry I, University of Ulm

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Standardized heart rate analyses were performed in 60 drug-free patients with alcohol dependence, who were admitted consecutively to a psychiatric department, and in 60 healthy normal matched subjects. The procedure included time and frequency derived measurements of heart rate variability (HRV). The investigations were carried out 3 weeks after admission and treatment on a closed ward to avoid autonomic hyperexcitability during withdrawal or relapse.

The patients showed a significantly increased heart rate (p<0.05), a significant reduction in the coefficient of variation while resting (p<0.01) and a significant decrease of the high frequency power of spectral analysis (p<0.01) compared with the normal subjects. Cardiovascular autonomic dysfunction was found in 12 of the patients, but in only one of the normal subjects (p<0.01). The results indicated moderate parasympathetic (vagal) alteration in alcohol-dependent patients treated in a psychiatric department. This may have implications for psychotherapeutic or psychopharmacological treatment strategies and prognosis in such patients with alcohol dependence.


heart rate analysis heart rate variability (HRV) alcohol dependence cardiovascular autonomic dysfunction