E-cigarettes destabilize heart rhythms, study suggests

University of Louisville (Ky.) researchers found e-cigarette liquids can cause arrhythmias and cardiac electrical dysfunction.

The study, published in Nature Communications on Oct. 25, exposed mice to e-cigarette aerosols to test how the two main ingredients — nicotine-free propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin — affect the heart rate. They also exposed the mice to flavored retail e-liquids containing nicotine.

"Our findings demonstrate that short-term exposure to e-cigarettes can destabilize heart rhythm through specific chemicals within e-liquids," lead researcher Alex Carll, PhD, assistant professor in the UofL department of physiology, told Diagnostic and Interventional Cardiology. "These findings suggest that e-cigarette use involving certain flavors or solvent vehicles may disrupt the heart's electrical conduction and provoke arrhythmias. These effects could increase the risk for atrial or ventricular fibrillation and sudden cardiac arrest."

"The findings are important because they provide fresh evidence that the use of e-cigarettes could interfere with normal heart rhythms — something we did not know before," Aruni Bhatnagar, PhD, professor in the UofL division of environmental medicine and study author, said in the report. "This is highly concerning given the rapid growth of e-cigarette use, particularly among young people."

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