- In order to assess early changes in heart rate variability, we studied 81 patients with acute myocardial infarction during the initial 24 hours after thrombolytic therapy. The standard deviation of the mean heart rate and the low (0 to 0.05 Hz), mid (0.05 to 0.20 Hz), and high (0.20 to 0.35 Hz) frequency band power were evaluated with 24-hour ECG Holter recordings. We found diminished variance in the time domain and reduced power spectrum in the frequency domain compared with a group of 41 normal subjects (p < 0.01). Patients with anterior infarction had significantly (p < 0.01) higher heart rates and lower heart rate variability values than patients with inferior infarction. Reduction in heart rate variability occurred within the first 8 hours in patients with anterior infarction; a significant fall (p < 0.03) was especially noted in the high-frequency band after a decline in ST-segment elevation. Heart rate variability alterations in patients with inferior infarction were most evident in the final 8-hour interval. These findings may be viewed in terms of sympathovagal imbalance and may be related to clinical signs of intense autonomic nervous system activity that are observed early in the course of acute anterior and inferior myocardial infarction.