The effect of biofeedback on function in patients with heart failure

Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2009 Jun;34(2):71-91. doi: 10.1007/s10484-009-9077-2. Epub 2009 Feb 10.


Decreased HRV has been consistently associated with increased cardiac mortality and morbidity in HF patients. The aim of this study is to determine if a 6-week course of heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback and breathing retraining could increase exercise tolerance, HRV, and quality of life in patients with New York Heart Association Class I-III heart failure (HF). Participants (N = 29) were randomly assigned to either the treatment group consisting of six sessions of breathing retraining, HRV biofeedback and daily practice, or the comparison group consisting of six sessions of quasi-false alpha-theta biofeedback and daily practice. Exercise tolerance, measured by the 6-min walk test (6MWT), HRV, measured by the standard deviation of normal of normal beats (SDNN), and quality of life, measured by the Minnesota Living with Congestive Heart Failure Questionnaire, were measured baseline (week 0), post (week 6), and follow-up (week 18). Cardiorespiratory biofeedback significantly increased exercise tolerance (p = .05) for the treatment group in the high (>or=31%) left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) category between baseline and follow-up. Neither a significant difference in SDNN (p = .09) nor quality of life (p = .08), was found between baseline and follow-up. A combination of HRV biofeedback and breathing retraining may improve exercise tolerance in patients with HF with an LVEF of 31% or higher. Because exercise tolerance is considered a strong prognostic indicator, cardiorespiratory biofeedback has the potential to improve cardiac mortality and morbidity in HF patients.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biofeedback, Psychology / physiology*
  • Breathing Exercises
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena
  • Depression / complications
  • Depression / psychology
  • Exercise Test
  • Exercise Tolerance / physiology
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology*
  • Heart Failure / psychology
  • Heart Failure / rehabilitation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance
  • Quality of Life
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Walking / physiology