May 26, 1993

The Safety of Tricyclic Antidepressants in Cardiac PatientsRisk-Benefit Reconsidered

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Clinical Psychopharmacology, New York State Psychiatric Institute, and the Department of Psychiatry (Drs Glassman and Roose), and the Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine (Dr Bigger), College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, NY.

JAMA. 1993;269(20):2673-2675. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500200087039

IN 1977, we first reported the antiarrhythmic effect of imipramine hydrochloride.1 Prior to that time, physicians generally believed that the tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) caused arrhythmia. That belief stemmed from the propensity of overdoses of these drugs to provoke arrhythmias.2 However, it subsequently became apparent, both from our studies3-6 and the work of others,7 that at plasma concentrations therapeutic for depression,8 TCAs suppress arrhythmias, and their cardiac effects closely resemble those of class I antiarrhythmic drugs.9,10 Until recently, it was our belief that depressed patients with preexisting arrhythmias would benefit from the antiarrhythmic effect of TCAs.11,12 Unfortunately, recent studies indicate that this opinion may need to be revised.

Ventricular premature depolarizations (VPDs) are a well-documented risk factor for sudden death after myocardial infarction (MI)13,14 and the assumption had been that drugs that suppress VPDs would reduce this associated mortality. However, in 1983, Furberg