Electrophysiologic effects and clinical hazards of carbamazepine treatment for neurologic disorders in patients with abnormalities of the cardiac conduction system

Am Heart J. 1991 May;121(5):1421-9. doi: 10.1016/0002-8703(91)90148-b.


Carbamazepine, a first-line drug for the treatment of epilepsy and neuralgia, may exert hazardous effects on the cardiac conduction system. Standard ECG and long-term ECG monitoring and invasive electrophysiologic testing were carried out in 10 patients who required this drug for neurologic disorders, but in whom its safe use had been questioned because of symptoms of ECG abnormalities. We observed depression of sinus node function and an atrioventricular conduction delay with a significant prolongation of the PQ interval of 16 msec (9%; 95% confidence interval: 1.9% to 16.5%; p less than 0.05), of which the HV interval was significantly prolonged but not the PA and AH intervals. These effects are in accordance with previously shown class 1A properties. However, the lack of effects on QRS, JT, and QT intervals at normal heart rates is a class 1B characteristic. Thus carbamazepine seems to have composite electropharmacologic actions. A cause effect relationship between carbamazepine treatment and significant arrhythmias was established in five patients. Thus the negative chronotropic and dromotropic effects of carbamazepine may, at least in predisposed patients, induce symptoms confusingly similar to the epileptic seizures it is used to prevent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / chemically induced*
  • Carbamazepine / adverse effects*
  • Carbamazepine / therapeutic use
  • Cardiac Pacing, Artificial
  • Electrocardiography
  • Electrocardiography, Ambulatory
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Heart Conduction System / drug effects*
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuralgia / drug therapy


  • Carbamazepine