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Cardiol Clin. 1992 Aug;10(3):499-537.

Heart rate variability. Frequency domain analysis.

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Department of Medicine (Division of Cardiology, Reingold ECG Center), Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Illinois.


Experience with frequency domain analysis over the past two decades strongly suggests that it represents a unique, noninvasive tool for achieving a more precise assessment of autonomic function in both the experimental and clinical settings. Available studies indicate that the significance of the HF component is far better understood than that of the lower frequency components. In general, it is considered to reflect vagal activity, and because it is readily manipulated pharmacologically, is used as a an index of that activity. However, some caution is required because this parameter also is strongly influenced by the degree of coupling between respiration and heart rate, which, in turn, reflects the intensity of the respiratory effort as well as of parasympathetic activity. Respiratory pattern also can significantly influence HF power. The use of controlled breathing minimizes these problems, improves reproducibility of test findings, and also facilitates quantitative comparisons. The situation with respect to LF power is more complicated because it is modulated by both sympathetic and parasympathetic outflows (see previous discussion) as well as by other factors, including baroreceptor activity. Therefore, LF analysis per se cannot afford a precise delineation of the state of sympathetic activation. Determinations of the LF/HF ratio, an index of sympathovagal balance both under control conditions and in conjunction with interventions that maximize sympathetic and parasympathetic activity, provide additional insights, as do correlations between spectral activity and direct nerve recordings, plasma norepinephrine concentrations, and radionuclide imaging of adrenergic nerves. Renewed interest has recently been evinced in frequencies lower than 0.04 Hz in view of reports that the VLF portion of the spectrum (0.01-0.04 Hz) reflects a purer form of sympathetic activity than does the LF band. Despite the potential applicability to clinical problems, only very little is known about the physiologic basis of the VLF and ULF bands. Further study is required. However, it is important to note that meaningful determinations of VLF and ULF power may be difficult because decreases in frequency to such low levels are associated with an increasing propensity to violate the rules governing power spectral determinations (see previous discussion and appendix), violations that diminish reliability despite the most sophisticated preprocessing. It is also noteworthy that the reliability of spectral power determinations diminishes with decreases in the power of the signal and of the signal-to-noise ratio.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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