Heart rate variability in depressed patients and differential effects of paroxetine and amitriptyline on cardiovascular autonomic functions

Pharmacopsychiatry. 1994 May;27(3):124-8. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-1014291.


Twenty-four unmedicated patients with episodes of major depression (DSM-III-R) and an age- and sex-matched group of 24 normal subjects underwent a heart rate analysis. The battery of cardiovascular reflex tests included the coefficient of variation while resting (CVr) and during deep breathing (CVdr), a spectral analysis of heart rate variability, the Valsalva test, and the posture index. The depressed patients showed no significant abnormalities in any of the tests as compared to the healthy subjects. The 24 patients were randomly allocated for treatment with either amitriptyline or paroxetine. During treatment with 20 mg paroxetine per day, patients showed no changes in cardiovascular autonomic function tests after 14 days. However, treatment with 150 mg amitriptyline per day decreased all heart rate parameters significantly due to anticholinergic side effects, except heart rate, which increased significantly. As autonomic side effects are a potential hazard of antidepressant therapy, the data suggest that paroxetine is an appropriate antidepressant for cases with pre-existing cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amitriptyline / pharmacology
  • Amitriptyline / therapeutic use*
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paroxetine / pharmacology
  • Paroxetine / therapeutic use*


  • Amitriptyline
  • Paroxetine