Decreases in heart rate variability are associated with postoperative complications in hip fracture patients

PLoS One. 2017 Jul 25;12(7):e0180423. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0180423. eCollection 2017.


Background: To explore relevant associations between deviations in linear and nonlinear heart rate variability (HRV) scores, and short-term morbidity and mortality in patients undergoing hip-surgery after a fracture.

Methods: 165 patients with hip fractures being admitted for surgery at two hospitals were included in a prospective cohort study. A short-term ECG was recorded within 24 hours of arrival. 15 patients had to be excluded due to insufficient quality of the ECG recordings. 150 patients were included in the final analysis. Linear parameters were calculated in time domain: standard deviation of NN intervals (SDNN), root mean square of successive differences (rMSSD); and frequency domain: Total Power (TP), High Frequency Power (HF), Low Frequency Power (LF), Very Low Frequency Power (VLF), and the ratio of LF/HF. Postoperative outcome was evaluated at the time of discharge. This included occurrence of pneumonia, overall infection rate, stroke, myocardial infarction, and all-cause mortality.

Results: Patients experiencing complications had significantly lower rMSSD (p = 0.04), and TP (p = 0.03) preoperatively. Postoperative infections were predicted by decreased VLF preoperatively (p = 0.04). There was a significant association between pneumonia and LF/HF<1 (p = 0.03). The likelihood ratio to develop pneumonia when LF/HF < 1 was 6,1.

Conclusion: HRV seems to reflect the general frailty of the patient with hip fracture and might be used to identify patients in need of increased surveillance or prophylactic treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Heart Rate*
  • Hip Fractures / complications*
  • Hip Fractures / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pneumonia / etiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Urinary Tract Infections / etiology*

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.