• arrhythmia;
  • autonomic nervous system;
  • hyperacute stroke;
  • spectral analysis

Forty-four patients suffering a stroke for the first time were examined within 10 h of the onset of symptoms; the tests performed on their admission to hospital, and thereafter on the third and seventh day, were 24-h Holter EKG with spectral analysis of heart rate variability, evaluation of arterial blood pressure and the levels of catecholamine in the blood and 24-h urine. The dynamic EKG on admission revealed that 31 (70.5%) out of the 44 patients already had arrhythmia. These alterations were observed in 9 (75%) out of 12 haemorrhagic patients with a significant (P<0.05) prevalence compared to 22 (68.8%) of the 32 ischaemic ones. Arrhythmia showed up in 16 (76.2%) out of 21 cases with right hemisphere lesions and in 12 (63.2%) out of 19 cases of left hemisphere lesions; this difference was also significant (P<0.05). Arrhythmia was still present in 19 (43.2%) patients after 3 days and only in 2 (6.5%) patients after 7 days. The spectral analysis parameters on admission and after 3 days were significantly (P<0.05) modified in patients with stroke plus arrhythmia, compared to patients with stroke alone and to control subjects, whereas no further differences were observed on the seventh day. Moreover, the percentage of patients with arterial hypertension and high levels of catecholamine greatly decreased from the third day onwards. A transient autonomic nervous system imbalance with prevalent sympathetic activity may justify this cardiovascular impairment during the hyperacute phase of stroke.