Objectives: This study evaluates the direct and autonomically mediated effects of oral quinidine on ventricular repolarization in humans.
Background: Interactions between quinidine-related vagolytic properties and autonomic modulation on ventricular repolarization are unknown. The relative role of the two components, if present, might improve our understanding of the therapeutic and proarrhythmic mechanisms of quinidine on the ventricular tissue.
Methods: Rate-related changes in the QT interval were investigated after an abrupt increase in heart rate in 15 patients during atrial pacing. In the control study, the QT interval was measured at six paced cycle lengths (600, 540, 500, 460, 430 and 400 ms) both in the basal state and after autonomic blockade (intravenous propranolol, 0.2 mg/kg, and intravenous atropine, 0.04 mg/kg); oral quinidine was then administered at a daily dosage of 1,200 mg for 3 to 4 days, after which the QT duration was reassessed using the same method in a second study.
Results: During the control study, the mean slope of the regression curve estimating the correlation between pacing cycle length and QT duration was significantly lower after autonomic blockade (0.14 +/- 0.05) than in the basal state (0.27 +/- 0.10, p < 0.05). Quinidine exhibited a prominent but opposite effect on the mean slope of the regression curves in basal conditions (from 0.27 +/- 0.10 to 0.20 +/- 0.07, p < 0.05) and after withdrawal of autonomic modulation (from 0.14 +/- 0.05 to 0.19 +/- 0.05, p < 0.05), thus annulling the differences observed between the two states in the control study.
Conclusions: A quinidine-induced increase in QT duration as cycle length is prolonged is consistent with a reverse use dependence effect on ventricular repolarization. This effect is not evident in the basal state owing to interaction of quinidine-related vagolytic effect with the autonomic tone. Reverse use dependence and vagolytic activity on ventricular tissue indicate two potentially undesirable effects that could play a role in the lack of efficacy or proarrhythmic effect of quinidine.