Background: Reduced heart rate variability (HRV) after acute myocardial infarction (AMI) indicates poor prognosis. HRV in patients with uncomplicated coronary artery disease is reduced, and an association with poor prognosis has been suggested. The mechanism of the HRV reduction is not known, but ischemia is a possibility. Aim: To evaluate, in angina patients with no prior AMI, no other disease and drug-free, if complete revascularization and thus important reduction of ischemia by means of PTCA influences HRV. Patients and Methods: Twenty-four-hour Holter recordings were performed at baseline prior to PTCA in 48 patients with angina and in 41 age-matched healthy control subjects. The recording was repeated 1 and 6 months after complete revascularization. In addition, HRV was registered during controlled respiration in the supine and standing positions and during cold pressure test at baseline in all angina patients and controls and in 17 consecutive angina patients 6 months after PTCA. Results: Compared to controls, angina patients had a significantly reduced mean RR interval (p = 0.02), SD (p = 0.003), rMSSD (p = 0.03), pNN50 (p = 0.03), total power (p = 0.003), low- (p = 0.004) and high-frequency peak (p = 0.04), but normal SDNN, SDANN and LF/HF. One and 6 months after PTCA, 42/46 and 32/40 follow-up patients, respectively, were free of angina. Six months after PTCA, there was a significant recovery of vagal modulation seen in the frequency domain during controlled respiration, but only nonsignificant trends in HRV parameters analyzed over 24 h. Conclusion: Patients with uncomplicated angina had reduced HRV, mainly affecting vagal activity, but normal low frequency variability associated with mortality. Complete revascularization caused a partial normalization of vagal modulation indicating that ischemia may be one of but not the only mechanism of the HRV reduction in uncomplicated chronic coronary artery disease.

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