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Clin Physiol. 2001 May;21(3):365-76.

Time domain, geometrical and frequency domain analysis of cardiac vagal outflow: effects of various respiratory patterns.

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Department of Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.


The purpose of this study was to compare the applicability of four different measures of heart rate variability (HRV) in the assessment of cardiac vagal outflow, with special reference to the effect of breathing pattern. The anticholinergic effects of an intravenous glycopyrrolate infusion (5 microg x kg(-1) x h(-1) for 2 h) during spontaneous and controlled (15 min(-1)) breathing rate were investigated in eight volunteers, and the effects of different fixed breathing rates (6-15-24 min(-1)) and hyperventilation in 12 subjects. Cardiac vagal activity was assessed by ECG recordings in which the following measures of HRV were computed: the high-frequency (HF) spectral component, the instantaneous RR interval (RRI) variability (SD1) analysed from the Poincaré plots, the percentage of differences between successive RRIs greater than 50 ms (pNN50), and the square root of the mean squared differences of successive RRIs (RMSSD). On average, glycopyrrolate reduced the HF spectral component by 99.8%, SD1 by 91.3%, pNN50 by 100% and RMSSD by 97.0%. The change of breathing pattern from controlled to spontaneous decreased significantly the HF component and pNN50, but did not affect SD1 or RMSSD. Rapid breathing rate (24 min(-1)) decreased the HF component, but had no effects on the other measures. A controlled breathing rate is needed for a reliable assessment of cardiac vagal outflow by the spectral analysis technique. The quantitative geometrical analysis of short-term RRI variability from the Poincaré plots and the time domain measure RMSSD were not significantly affected by changes in the breathing rate, suggesting that these indices are more suitable for the measurement of cardiac vagal outflow during the 'free-running' ambulatory conditions.

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