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J Electrocardiol. 1995;28 Suppl:59-65.

Fractal mechanisms and heart rate dynamics. Long-range correlations and their breakdown with disease.

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Cardiovascular Division, Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, MA 02215, USA.
Beth Israel Hosp, Boston, MA


Under healthy conditions, the normal cardiac (sinus) interbeat interval fluctuates in a complex manner. Quantitative analysis using techniques adapted from statistical physics reveals the presence of long-range power-law correlations extending over thousands of heartbeats. This scale-invariant (fractal) behavior suggests that the regulatory system generating these fluctuations is operating far from equilibrium. In contrast, it is found that for subjects at high risk of sudden death (e.g., congestive heart failure patients), these long-range correlations break down. Application of fractal scaling analysis and related techniques provides new approaches to assessing cardiac risk and forecasting sudden cardiac death, as well as motivating development of novel physiologic models of systems that appear to be heterodynamic rather than homeostatic.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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