[Arrhythmogenic effects of alcohol]

Rev Med Chir Soc Med Nat Iasi. 2011 Oct-Dec;115(4):1052-6.
[Article in Romanian]


Acute or chronic excessive consumption of alcohol can cause cardiac arrhythmias, particularly supraventricular tachyarrhythmias. Experimental and clinical data show that chronic excessive alcohol ingestion has a destructive role on cardiac tissue, which significantly deteriorates the rhythm and contractile activity, manifested by the appearance of cardiac arrythmias and dilated cardiomyopathy.

Aim: The aim of this study was to evaluate and analyze the ECG changes and disturbances of cardiac rhythm and conduction in patients after an acute or chronic excessive consumption of alcohol.

Material and methods: The study included 187 patients (184 males and 3 females). Each patient followed biochemical and hematological analysis as well as paraclinical investigation measurements.

Results: The most common types of arrhythmia were permanent atrial fibrillation (61%). Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation and supraventricular extrasystoles were found in patients without significant echocardiographic deteriorations. These arrhythmias appeared after an excessive alcohol drinking and paroxysmal atrial fibrillation was converted to normal sinus rhythm after a short period of abstinence or after pharmacologic therapy. Ventricular arrhythmias (ventricular extrasystoles, non-sustained ventricular tachycardia-4.7%, torsada de point-1.5%) were less frequent. Conduction disturbance (left bundle branch-LBBB 6.3%, right bundle branch-RBBB 10%) were found in patients who had a history of consuming >150 g/day of alcohol for >10 years, with dilated heart chambers and systolic ventricular function much more deteriorated (symptomatic stage of heart failure).

Conclusion: Excessive alcohol consumption may lead to cardiac arrhythmias in patients with existing heart disease as well as in healthy individuals.

Publication types

  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology
  • Atrial Fibrillation / etiology*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / physiopathology*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Ethanol
  • Female
  • Heart Conduction System / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Romania / epidemiology
  • Sex Distribution
  • Tachycardia / epidemiology
  • Tachycardia / etiology*
  • Tachycardia / physiopathology*
  • Tachycardia, Supraventricular / physiopathology
  • Tachycardia, Ventricular / physiopathology


  • Ethanol