- The effect of intravenous atenolol on ventricular arrhythmias in acute myocardial infarction was assessed in 182 patients admitted within 12 hours of the onset of chest pain. Ninety-five patients were randomised to receive 5 mg intravenous atenolol followed immediately by 50 mg by mouth and 50 mg 12 hours later, then 100 mg daily for 10 days; 87 patients served as controls. The treated patients had significantly fewer ventricular extrasystoles; 58 control patients (67%) had R-on-T extrasystoles compared with only 25 treated patients (26%) (2p less than 0.0001); repetitive ventricular arrhythmias were detected in 64 control patients (74%) and 55 treated patients (58%) (2p less than 0.05). Heart rate was significantly reduced from 77 +/- 1 beats/min at entry to 65 +/- 1 beats/min (2p less than 0.001) in the first hour after intravenous atenolol, and in addition the rate was significantly different from that in the control group. There was no difference in the incidence of heart failure, but fewer patients in the treated group received other antiarrhythmic agents or digoxin. These results show that early intravenous atenolol prevents ventricular arrhythmias in suspected acute myocardial infarction.