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Shock. 2010 Apr;33(4):363-8. doi: 10.1097/SHK.0b013e3181b66bf4.

Relationship of basal heart rate variability to in vivo cytokine responses after endotoxin exposure.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Division of Surgical Sciences, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903, USA.


Autonomic inputs from the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, as measured by heart rate variability (HRV), have been reported to correlate to the severity injury and responses to infectious challenge among critically ill patients. In addition, parasympathetic/vagal activity has been shown experimentally to exert anti-inflammatory effects via attenuation of splanchnic tissue TNF-alpha production. We sought to define the influence of gender on HRV responses to in vivo endotoxin challenge in healthy humans and to determine if baseline HRV parameters correlated with endotoxin-mediated circulating cytokine responses. Young (<30 years of age), healthy subjects (n = 30) received endotoxin (2 ng/kg), and HRV and blood samples were obtained serially thereafter. Plasma cytokines were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and HRV parameters were determined by analysis of serial 5-min epochs of heart rate monitoring. In addition, calculation of multiscale entropy deriving from cardiac monitoring data was performed. The influence of factors such as gender, body mass index, and resting heart rate on HRV after endotoxin exposure was assessed. We found that gender, body mass index, or resting heart rate did not significantly alter the HRV response after endotoxin exposure. Using entropy analysis, we observed that females had significantly higher entropy values at 24 h after endotoxin exposure. Using a serially sampling protocol for cytokine determination, we found a significant correlation of several baseline HRV parameters (percentage of interval differences of successive interbeat intervals more than 50 ms, r = 0.42, P < 0.05; high-frequency variability, r = 0.4, P < 0.05; and low-frequency/high-frequency ratio, r = -0.43, P < 0.05) on TNF-alpha release after endotoxin exposure.

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