- Heart rate variability is a sensitive marker of cardiac sympathetic activity. To determine whether long-term hyperthyroidism induced by thyroxine suppressive therapy affects HRV. Nineteen patients treated with suppressive doses of thyroxin for thyroid cancer and 19 age-matched controls were enrolled. Thyroid function tests and 1 minute HRV were performed on all subjects and the results were compared between the groups. The 1 minute HRV was analyzed during deep breathing and defined as the difference in beats/minute between the shortest and the longest heart rate interval measured by eletrocardiographic recording during six cycles of deep breathing. One minute HRV during deep breathing was significantly lower among thyroxine-treated patients compared to healthy controls (25.6 +/- 10.5 vs. 34.3 +/- 12.6 beats/min, P < 0.05). There were no significant differences in mean, maximal and minimal heart rate between the groups. Thyroxine therapy administered for epithelial thyroid cancer resulted in subclinical hyperthyroidism and significantly decreased HRV due to autonomic dysfunction rather than basic elevated heart rate.