A comparison of the risk of QT prolongation among SSRIs

Ann Pharmacother. 2013 Oct;47(10):1330-41. doi: 10.1177/1060028013501994. Epub 2013 Oct 21.


Objective: To report QT prolongation potential in selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in order to advise clinicians on safe use of SSRIs other than citalopram in light of citalopram warnings.

Data sources: Primary literature and case reports were identified through a systematic search. Data from drug manufacturers, package inserts, and the ArizonaCERT database were also utilized.

Study selection and data extraction: English-language studies and case reports were included.

Data synthesis: Studies demonstrate possible dose-related clinically significant QT prolongation with escitalopram. Fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, and sertraline at traditional doses demonstrate a lack of clinically significant increases in QTc in the majority of studies. Further, paroxetine monotherapy shows a lack of clinically significant QTc prolongation in all studies. However, case reports or reporting tools still link these SSRIs with QTc prolongation. Fluoxetine, escitalopram, and sertraline used in post-acute coronary syndrome patients did not demonstrate risk of QTc prolongation.

Conclusion: For clinicians who choose not to use citalopram due to recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendations, other antidepressants within this class may be considered. When citalopram is not utilized based on risk factors for TdP, use of escitalopram is not likely the safest alternative. Based on current literature, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, and sertraline appear to have similar, low risk for QT prolongation, and paroxetine appears to have the lowest risk. However, there are significant limitations in interpreting the studies, including varying definitions of significant QT prolongation. Therefore, choice of an alternative SSRI should be based on individual risk factors for arrhythmias and other patient-specific factors.

Keywords: QTc prolongation; SSRI; torsades de pointes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Long QT Syndrome / chemically induced*
  • Risk
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / adverse effects*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors