Background: Autonomic nervous activity plays a critical role in the genesis of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (AF, PAF). However, the role of autonomic nervous activity on AF termination has not been elucidated. Heart rate variability (HRV) is widely used to evaluate autonomic nervous activity in humans. The purpose of this study was to assess whether autonomic nervous activity assessed by HRV contributes to AF termination. Methods: Electrocardiograms (ECGs) and HRV were studied in patients with termination of sustained (>30 s) PAF by 24-hour ambulatory Holter monitoring. The 20-minute interval after termination of AF was divided into four segments of 5 minutes each, and a frequency analysis was applied to each 5-minute segment. Results: In 52 AF episodes, the ultra-low-frequency power, very-low-frequency power, low-frequency power (LF), high-frequency power (HF), and total power significantly decreased with time after episodes of AF termination. The LF/HF (L/H) ratio, normalized LF (LFnu), and normalized HF (HFnu) significantly changed after AF termination. Eighteen (35%) episodes had decreased LFnu and increased HFnu (sympathetic withdrawal and vagal activation), which had slower average AF ventricular responses (92 ± 16 beats/min vs 105 ± 24 beats/min, P < 0.05) than the AF termination episodes (n = 34, 65%) with increased LFnu and decreased HFnu (sympathetic activation and vagal withdrawal). Moreover, older patients (aged >65 years) had a higher incidence (n = 27, 75%) of AF termination with increased LFnu and decreased HFnu than did younger patients (aged ≤65 years, n = 7, 44%, P < 0.05). Conclusion: Autonomic changes critically regulate termination of PAF, which is modulated by aging.
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