Use of the low-frequency/high-frequency ratio of heart rate variability to predict short-term deterioration in emergency department patients with sepsis

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Abstract

Objective

To examine the ability of the low-frequency/high-frequency (LF/HF) ratio of heart rate variability (HRV) analysis to identify patients with sepsis at risk of early deterioration.

Methods

This is a prospective observational cohort study of patients with sepsis presenting to the Montefiore Medical Center ED from December 2014 through September 2015. On presentation, a single ECG Holter recording was obtained and analysed to obtain the LF/HF ratio of HRV. Initial Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) scores were computed. Patients were followed for 72 hours to identify those with early deterioration.

Results

466 patients presenting to the ED with sepsis were analysed. Thirty-two (7%) reached at least one endpoint within 72 hours. An LF/HF ratio <1 had a sensitivity and specificity of 34% (95% CI (19% to 53%)) and 82% (95% CI (78% to 85%)), respectively, with positive and negative likelihood ratios of 1.9 (95% CI (1.1 to 3.2)) and 0.8 (95% CI (0.6 to 1.0)). An initial SOFA score ≥3 had a sensitivity and specificity of 38% (95% CI (22% to 56%)) and 92% (95% CI (89% to 95%)), with positive and negative likelihood ratios of 4.9 (95% CI (2.8 to 8.6)) and 0.7 (95% CI (0.5 to 0.9)). The composite measure of HRV+SOFA had improved sensitivity (56%, 95% CI (38% to 73%)) but at the expense of specificity (77%, 95% CI (72% to 80%)), with positive and negative likelihood ratios of 2.4 (95% CI (1.7 to 3.4)) and 0.6 (95% CI (0.4 to 0.9)). Receiver operating characteristic analysis did not identify a superior alternate threshold for the LF/HF ratio. Kaplan-Meier survival functions differed significantly (p=0.02) between low (<1) and high (≥1) LF/HF groups.

Conclusions

While we found a statistically significant relationship between HRV, SOFA and HRV+SOFA, and early deterioration, none reliably functioned as a clinical predictive tool. More complex multivariable models will likely be required to construct models with clinical utility.

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