Autonomic Alterations in Cocaine-Exposed Neonates Following Orthostatic Stress

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We investigated the effects of prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE) on heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) in the presence of orthostatic stress among near- and full-term neonates. PCE infants (n = 21) and controls (n = 23) were enrolled within 120 h of birth. ECG was recorded for an hour during quiet sleep, 30 min in supine position and then 30 min in an inclined position. Linear mixed models were used to analyze HR and HRV in the time domain and wavelet and power spectrum analyses in the frequency domain. PCE infants had tachycardia both before (p = 0.091) and after tilting (p = 0.015), but with a clear interaction between PCE and orthostatic stress (p = 0.049). Compared with controls, PCE infants had a delayed and prolonged reaction to orthostatic stress. There was also a pronounced interaction with regard to log-transformed SDDRR, a measure of HRV (p = 0.049). Controls experienced an instantaneous increase in log (SDDRR) followed by a prompt return to normal levels, while PCE infants had a gradual increase that did not dissipate quickly. Frequency-domain analyses also distinguished between the cocaine-exposed infants and the controls. Results suggest that the effects of PCE on the development of sympathetic and parasympathetic systems could lead to altered cardiovascular function.

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