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We recorded heart rhythms of 40 older patients (20 medicated for cardiovascular disease and 20 not medicated for cardiovascular disease) during an outpatient oral surgery visit to determine overall arrhythmia incidence and severity, differences in incidence associated with cardiovascular medication status, and the impact of surgical intervention on arrhythmia incidence. We hypothesized that both groups would show similar arrhythmia numbers and types during surgical visits and that a history of medication for cardiovascular disease would not be an indicator of cardiac arrhythmia. Enrollment remained open until 20 patients older than 60 years of age from each group agreed to participate. Data were analyzed using the chi square statistic and Fisher's exact test (2-tailed). Included in the study were 24 women and 16 men; their mean age was 70.5 years (range, 60 to 86 years). Arrhythmias were detected in 17 patients and 33 of the 160 recorded rhythms. None of the detected arrhythmias were considered life-threatening. Significantly more arrhythmias occurred before administration of anesthesia than during administration of epinephrine-containing local anesthetics (p = 0.0001), and a greater number of rhythm disturbances were seen during the surgical procedure when compared with anesthesia administration (p = 0.0170). No differences in arrhythmia incidence were seen with increasing age, when male patients were compared with female patients, or when patients pharmacologically treated for cardiovascular disease were compared with patients not taking cardiovascular therapeutic medications. We conclude that although arrhythmias in this ambulatory population are common, they are typically benign in character and cardiovascular medication status is not indicative of their presence. In addition, minor oral surgery intervention with local anesthetics used in recommended dosages has no effect on cardiac arrhythmia status in the ambulatory geriatric population.