Background: Transplantation has been shown to improve cardiorespiratory reflex measures of autonomic function. However, there are limited data on how kidney or kidney-pancreas transplantation influence continuous autonomic modulation of heart rate and the clinical utility of 24-hr heart rate variability (HRV) monitoring.
Methods: Ninety nondiabetic kidney and 30 diabetic kidney-pancreas transplant recipients underwent 24-hr Holter monitoring before and again at 6 and 12 months posttransplantation. Tapes were submitted for determination of HRV including interbeat variability (the proportion of adjacent R-R intervals having a difference <50 msec, the SD of all R-R intervals for the entire recording, and the SD of the averages of R-R intervals calculated over 5-min blocks for the entire recording) which is associated with vagal function, sudden death, and circadian function, respectively. Power spectral analysis quantified total neural, sympathetic, and parasympathetic modulation of the heart in ln(msec2).
Results: Nondiabetic kidney recipients showed improvement (P< or =0.05) in the SD of the averages of R-R intervals calculated over 5-min blocks (83.2 vs. 95.7 msec) and the SD of all R-R intervals (94.5 vs. 104.4 msec) by 6 months and all groups showed improvement by 12 months. Kidney-pancreas recipients also showed improved total neural (4.35 vs. 4.64) and sympathetic modulation (2.70 vs. 3.13). Kidney-pancreas recipients had significantly poorer values for each measure (P< or =0.05) at all time points.
Conclusions: Cardiac autonomic neuropathy arises in the presence of uremia and diabetes, with severe dysfunction seen when these conditions occur concomitantly. Improvement in cardiac autonomic function follows both kidney and kidney-pancreas transplantation with more pronounced improvement in the circadian measures. Therefore, circadian measures of 24-hr HRV could be used to monitor the restoration of cardiac autonomic function.