Papers And Originals

Effect of beta-blockers on arrhythmias during six weeks after suspected myocardial infarction

Br Med J 1979; 2 doi: (Published 01 September 1979) Cite this as: Br Med J 1979;2:518
  1. J M Roland,
  2. R G Wilcox,
  3. D C Banks,
  4. B Edwards,
  5. P H Fentem,
  6. J R Hampton


    Twenty-four-hour electrocardiographic tape-recording was used to investigate the incidence of arrhythmias in patients with suspected myocardial infarction who were receiving either propranolol, atenolol, or placebo. Recordings begun within 24 hours after admission to a coronary care unit showed that 76% of patients eventually found to have had a myocardial infarction had ventricular arrhythmias of a type generally regarded as serious, whereas of patients in whom myocardial infarction was not substantiated, only 24% had such arrhythmias. At one and six weeks after admission the incidence of arrhythmias ranged from 25% to 33% irrespective of diagnosis. Of patients monitored at both one and six weeks, however, only 5% had arrhythmias on each occasion. Patients treated with propranolol and atenolol showed a similar incidence of arrhythmias to those taking placebo. There was no difference in the incidence or type of arrhythmias recorded between patients who died and those who were still alive at six weeks.

    These results confirm that “serious” ventricular arrythmias occur in most patients during the acute phase of myocardial infarction and suggest that they do not constitute an independent risk factor. Beta-blockers showed little evidence of useful antiarrhythmic action in the dosage used, but increasing the dosage in suspected myocardial infarction is not practicable because of the risk of hypotension. The findings raise grave doubts about the value of studying arrhythmias to assess drugs intended to reduce mortality from myocardial infarction.