Hyperventilation in panic disorder patients and healthy first-degree relatives


Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research




Our aim was to observe the induction of panic attacks by a hyperventilation challenge test in panic disorder patients (DSM-IV) and their healthy first-degree relatives. We randomly selected 25 panic disorder patients, 31 healthy first-degree relatives of probands with panic disorder and 26 normal volunteers with no family history of panic disorder. All patients had no psychotropic drugs for at least one week. They were induced to hyperventilate (30 breaths/min) for 4 min and anxiety scales were applied before and after the test. A total of 44.0% (N = 11) panic disorder patients, 16.1% (N = 5) of first-degree relatives and 11.5% (N = 3) of control subjects had a panic attack after hyperventilating (chi² = 8.93, d.f. = 2, P = 0.011). In this challenge test the panic disorder patients were more sensitive to hyperventilation than first-degree relatives and normal volunteers. Although the hyperventilation test has a low sensitivity, our data suggest that there is no association between a family history of panic disorder and hyperreactivity to an acute hyperventilation challenge test. Perhaps cognitive variables should be considered to play a specific role in this association since symptoms of a panic attack and acute hyperventilation overlap.

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