Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Reduced cardiac vagal tone in patients with myocardial infarction (MI) is associated with a high risk of sudden death. Muscarinic blocking agents in small doses induce a paradoxical increase in cardiac vagal activity in normal subjects. We tested whether low doses of scopolamine delivered transdermally enhance tonic and reflex cardiac vagal activity in patients in the acute phase of MI. METHODS AND RESULTS: Patients were randomized to a scopolamine (n = 17) or a placebo patch (n = 19) in a double-blind fashion 4.20 +/- 0.18 days after acute MI. Cardiac vagal activity was assessed by testing the arterial baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) using the phenylephrine method and by power spectral analysis of the RR interval variability. Twenty-four hours after scopolamine, we found a significant increase in BRS (from 7.05 +/- 1.21 to 13.99 +/- 2.33 ms/mm Hg, P < .05) and in RR variability, expressed as the mean standard deviation of 512 normal consecutive RR intervals (from 18.09 +/- 2.64 to 31.16 +/- 4.16 milliseconds, P < .05). The amplitude of respiratory sinus arrhythmia, measured by the absolute power of the high-frequency spectral component, was also enhanced (from 62.55 +/- 21.49 to 305.33 +/- 95.68 milliseconds squared, P < .05), whereas the power in the low-frequency spectral component of the RR variability, which results from the interaction between cardiac sympathetic and vagal activity, did not change significantly (from 73.12 +/- 24.44 to 126.46 +/- 44.29 milliseconds squared, P = .93). CONCLUSIONS: In patients in the acute phase of MI, low doses of scopolamine cause a sustained increase in cardiac vagal tone and improve the autonomic indices associated with mortality.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





353 - 357


Arteries, Dose-Response Relationship, Drug, Double-Blind Method, Electrocardiography, Female, Heart Conduction System, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Myocardial Infarction, Pressoreceptors, Reflex, Scopolamine, Vagus Nerve