Effect of sertraline on the recovery rate of cardiac autonomic function in depressed patients after acute myocardial infarction

Am Heart J. 2001 Oct;142(4):617-23. doi: 10.1067/mhj.2001.116766.


Background: Brain serotonin is known to possess sympathoinhibitory properties. The aim of this clinical physiologic study was to determine whether sertraline, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, facilitates the rate of recovery of cardiac autonomic function after an acute myocardial infarction (MI) in patients with depression.

Methods and results: Thirty-eight post-MI depressed patients were randomized to receive either sertraline 50 mg per day or placebo for 6 months. Depression was defined as a score >15 on the standardized Inventory to Diagnose Depression questionnaire taken at prehospital discharge and again within 2 weeks of the acute infarct. Eleven stable post-MI nondepressed patients served as a nonrandomized reference group during follow-up. Twenty-seven patients completed the randomization. All 3 groups were followed up closely in a multidisciplinary post-MI clinic where they underwent serial testing for both time and frequency domain heart rate variability (HRV) indices at baseline (1-2 weeks after MI) and at 6, 10, 14, 18, and 22 weeks. The rate of recovery of HRV was determined by use of a growth curve model based on repeated-measures analysis of variance. There was a linear rate of increase in the SD of 24-hour N-N intervals (SDNN) in the sertraline-treated group that paralleled that of the nondepressed reference group. This contrasted with a modest but significant decline in SDNN in the placebo group from 2 to 22 weeks (t = 2.10, P <.05). However, the short-term power spectral indices, while trending toward a more rapid rate of recovery in the treated group, did not reach statistical significance compared with the placebo group.

Conclusion: In depressed patients who have survived the acute phase of an MI sertraline facilitates the rate of recovery of SDNN, a recognized predictor of clinical outcome.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Heart / innervation
  • Heart Rate / drug effects*
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / epidemiology
  • Myocardial Infarction / physiopathology*
  • Myocardial Infarction / psychology
  • Placebos
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Sertraline / pharmacology
  • Sertraline / therapeutic use*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Placebos
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Sertraline