The importance of high-frequency paced breathing in spectral baroreflex sensitivity assessment

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ObjectiveComputation of the low-frequency (LF) blood pressure variability (BPV) to heart rate variability (HRV) transfer-index is a common method to assess baroreflex sensitivity (BRS), tacitly assuming that all LF-HRV is caused by baroreflex feedback of LF-BPV. However, respiration may also cause HRV by mechanisms not involving the baroreflex. Application of narrow-band (controlled) high-frequency breathing would keep such non-baroreflex-mediated HRV best out of the LF band. Spontaneous breathing, because of its broad-band character, might cause extra, non-baroreflex-mediated, HRV in the LF band, while paced LF breathing would even concentrate most non-baroreflex-mediated HRV in the LF band. Our study addresses the likely resulting BRS overestimation.DesignWe recorded HRV and BPV in 20 healthy young subjects in the sitting position. We varied the sympathovagal balance by gradual leg-lowering from horizontal till 60°. At each angle the subjects performed controlled 0.10 Hz, spontaneous, and controlled 0.25 Hz respiration.ResultsResting BRS values were 15.5(7.2), 13.1(3.7), and 11.6(6.2) ms/mmHg, respectively. Both the 15/min and the free breathing values differed significantly, P < 0.01 and P = 0.04, from the 6/min breathing value. With lowered legs, the BRS values were 8.2(3.4), 8.3(2.9), and 8.3(3.4) ms/mmHg, respectively.ConclusionControlled 6/min breathing caused significant BRS overestimation under resting conditions. For the group, spontaneous respiration yielded acceptable BRS values, but individual BRS values deviated sometimes considerably. Conversely, with gravitational load, the respiratory pattern had only minor impact on BRS. Our results demonstrate that the risk of an overestimated BRS value is realistic as long as respiration is not controlled and of high-frequency.

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