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A Journal on Heart and Vascular Diseases

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Angiology and Vascular Pathology
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Minerva Cardioangiologica 2010 April;58(2):269-76

language: English

Cardiac electrophysiology in diabetes

Pappone C., Santinelli V.

Department of Arrhythmology, Villa Maria Cecilia Hospital, Cotignola, Ravenna, Italy


Patients with diabetes mellitus are at higher risk of cardiac arrhythmias and sudden death. Although there are several animal and human studies on this topic, the pathophysiology of the increased electrical vulnerability in diabetes is complex and remain undefined. It is conceivable that an interplay of several concomitant factors may facilitate the occurrence of arrhythmias. Atherosclerosis as well as microvascular disease, which are increased in diabetic patients, may facilitate myocardial ischemia that predisposes to cardiac arrhythmias and sudden death. In addition, autonomic neuropathy and/or cardiac repolarization abnormalities such as prolonged QT interval and altered T-waves of the diabetic heart also increases electrical instability. Therefore, all these factors may simultaneously contribute to create an electrical instability leading to cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. Recently, we have demonstrated that diabetes is the strongest predictor of atrial fibrillation (AF) progression and that diabetic patients frequently have asymptomatic episodes of AF with silent arrhythmia progression. Another recent study has reported that patients with type 2 diabetes and AF are at substantially higher risk of death of any cause compared with those without AF. These seminal studies emphasize that AF in diabetic patients should be regarded as a prognostic marker of adverse outcome and then a prompt aggressive management of all risk factors is required. In conclusion, diabetes mellitus significantly alters the cardiac electrophysiology throughout several complex mechanisms greatly contributing to create an electrical instability of the heart, which may lead to potentially life-threatening arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.

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