Heart Rate Variability: Clinical Applications and Interaction between HRV and Heart Rate
Heikki Veli Huikuri
Over the last decades, assessment of heart rate variability (HRV) has increased in various fields of research. HRV describes changes in heartbeat intervals, which are caused by autonomic neural regulation, i.e. by the interplay of the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. The most frequent application of HRV is connected to cardiological issues, most importantly to the monitoring of post-myocardial infarction patients and the prediction of sudden cardiac death. Analysis of HRV is also frequently applied in relation to diabetes, renal failure, neurological and psychiatric conditions, sleep disorders, psychological phenomena such as stress, as well as drug and addiction research including alcohol and smoking. The widespread application of HRV measurements is based on the fact that they are noninvasive, easy to perform, and in general reproducible – if carried out under standardized conditions. However, the amount of parameters to be analysed is still rising. Well-established time domain and frequency domain parameters are discussed controversially when it comes to their physiological interpretation and their psychometric properties like reliability and validity, and the sensitivity to cardiovascular properties of the variety of parameters seems to be a topic for further research. Recently introduced parameters like pNNxx and new dynamic methods such as approximate entropy and detrended fluctuation analysis offer new potentials and warrant standardization. However, HRV is significantly associated with average heart rate (HR) and one can conclude that HRV actually provides information on two quantities, i.e. on HR and its variability. It is hard to determine which of these two plays a principal role in the clinical value of HRV. The association between HRV and HR is not only a physiological phenomenon but also a mathematical one which is due to non-linear (mathematical) relationship between RR interval and HR. If one normalizes HRV to its average RR interval, one may get ‘pure’ variability free from the mathematical bias. Recently, a new modification method of the association between HRV and HR has been developed which enables us to completely remove the HRV dependence on HR (even the physiological one), or conversely enhance this dependence. Such an approach allows us to explore the HR contribution to the clinical significance of HRV, i.e. whether HR or its variability plays a main role in the HRV clinical value. This Research Topic covers recent advances in the application of HRV, methodological issues, basic underlying mechanisms as well as all aspects of the interaction between HRV and HR.