Bradycardia after heart transplantation: reversal with theophylline

J Am Coll Cardiol. 1996 Aug;28(2):396-9. doi: 10.1016/0735-1097(96)00162-3.


Objectives: We attempted to demonstrate that theophylline, an adenosine receptor antagonist, can reverse bradyarrhythmias after orthotopic heart transplantation.

Background: Sinus node dysfunction, primarily sinus bradycardia, frequently occurs after orthotopic heart transplantation and may lead to permanent pacemaker implantation. Endogenous adenosine has been implicated as a cause of such posttransplantation bradyarrhythmia.

Methods: Twenty-nine transplant recipients (group 1) were given theophylline after bradyarrhythmias developed after transplantation. Data in these patients were compared with those in a control group of 18 patients without bradyarrhythmias (group 2) who were not given theophylline.

Results: The mean heart rate in group 1 increased from 62 +/- 7 to 89 +/- 10 beats/min after administration of theophylline (p < 0.0001); the mean heart rate in group 2 was 88 +/- 12 beats/min. Patients in group 1 required more days of temporary atrial pacing (3.5 +/- 1 vs. 1.5 +/- 3, p < 0.04) before the administration of theophylline than did patients in group 2. The length of hospital stay after transplantation did not differ significantly between groups 1 and 2 (17 +/- 7.5 vs. 20 +/- 16 days, p = NS). Age, gender, underlying disease, preoperative use of amiodarone, graft ischemia time or the incidence of moderate to severe rejection were not different between patient groups.

Conclusions: The use of theophylline for posttransplantation bradyarrhythmias increased heart rate and facilitated the withdrawal of chronotropic support. We conclude that theophylline offers effective and specific therapy for heart transplant patients with early bradyarrhythmias, reducing the need for implantation of a permanent pacemaker.

MeSH terms

  • Arrhythmia, Sinus / drug therapy*
  • Arrhythmia, Sinus / etiology
  • Bradycardia / drug therapy*
  • Bradycardia / etiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Coronary Disease / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects*
  • Heart Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Purinergic P1 Receptor Antagonists*
  • Sinoatrial Node / drug effects
  • Sinoatrial Node / physiopathology
  • Stimulation, Chemical
  • Theophylline / therapeutic use*


  • Purinergic P1 Receptor Antagonists
  • Theophylline